Coming up this month, Weehawken is going to get a taste of the vivacious rhythms of samba jazz with “Sambatropolis,” the UBS Atrium Series’ latest lunchtime concert. The event features the internationally renowned Hendrik Meurkens Samba Jazz Quartet.
The free concert series takes place in the Lincoln Harbor section of the waterfront, at 1000 Harbor Blvd. It is coordinated by the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center, Inc. (HRPAC), a non-profit organization hoping to eventually build an arts facility on Weehawken’s riverfront.
“Its improvised music, so it’s exciting and there is a lot of personality involved,” said Henrik Meurkens. “Audiences will not know what to expect.”
Meurkens is regarded as one of the world’s most important jazz harmonica players.
On Wednesday, Feb. 18, his quartet – which also includes Misha Tsiganov, Gustavo Amarante and Adriano Santos – will entertain audiences with a wide terrain of Brazilian Jazz from traditional bossa nova and chorinhos to new wave sambafunk.
“I have been doing this for about 30 years, but we have been together for a combination of four years,” said Meurkens. “We are all part of the New York samba jazz scene.”
Meurkens has been a part of many jazz bands and has released numerous CDs as the featured artist, as well as the backing other revered musical talents such as Astrid Gilberto and Olivia Newton John. He has also toured with the Ray Brown Trio, Paquito D'Rivera, Oscar Castro Neves, Herb Ellis, Herbie Mann, Charlie Byrd, and James Moody among many others.
This is Meurkens’ first performance in the Atrium series, although he has played in New Jersey before, including West Orange and Montclair.
The jazz man
Originally from Hamburg, Germany, Meurkens was introduced to the world of jazz at a young age, and was inspired by jazz artists such as by Toots Thielemans.
“I was inspired by listening to records you [stumble] across in somebody’s record collection,” said Meurkens, who began studying the style and eventually began to hone his own style.
Meurkens began playing the vibraphone at the age of 16 and the harmonica at 18. After hearing Thielemans' harmonica playing, he began to teach himself to master the instrument.
“I began my own compositions down the line,” said Meurkens. “I have been a part of many jazz bands and different bands.”
Meurkens went on to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he received his degree as a performance major. It was while studying at Berklee that he was introduced to Brazilian music, specifically samba and bossa nova. After completing his major, Meurkens moved to Brazil for a year to become more immersed in the musical styles and culture of Brazil.
“For me [samba jazz] is music that gives me everything that I am attracted to [including melody and rhythm],” said Meurkens. “Its very collaborative in a good sense. The music is attractive and challenging. Audiences can understand without having to be a jazz specialist.”
Considered a virtuoso on both the chromatic harmonica and the vibraphone, Meurkens’ recordings and performances garner worldwide acclaim over his 30-year career.
This Wednesday’s concert will feature music from Meurkens Samba Jazz Quartet’s third compilation disc entitled “Samba to Go,” which is currently No. 1 in the World Music radio airplay category. This is Meurkens’ 19th samba jazz CD overall.
“It’s exciting and adventurous music, and new generations are coming along.” – Hendrik Meurkens
“It’s exciting and adventurous music, and new generations are coming along,” said Meurkens. “[Jazz] is definitely very alive.”
For more information on Hendrik Meurkens Samba Jazz Quartet visit http://www.hendrikmeurkens.com.
All performances for the UBS Atrium Series begin at 12:30 p.m. The concert is open to the public. For more information visit the HRPAC website at www.hrpac.org or call (201) 716-4540.