Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Hendrik Meurkens interview

April 19, 2023 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 84
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Hendrik Meurkens interview
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Show Notes Chapter Markers

Hendrik Meurkens joins me on episode 84.
Hendrik is a German chromatic player who has been living in New York since the early 1990s.
Toots Thielemans was Hendrik’s inspiration to take up the chromatic and he performed a live radio show in Germany with Toots.
Hendrik is also a vibraphone player, which he studied at the Berklee College of Music. Shortly after this he spent a year in Brazil to immerse himself in the music there. This helped him form his brand of Brazilian music, Samba Jazz.
Hendrik has a large album catalogue, including six albums with the prestigious jazz label Concord, and has performed and recorded with some of the biggest names in Brazilian and jazz music.


Hendrik's website:

Bandcamp site:

Hendrik’s album catalogue:

Tutorial site:


Hendrick playing vibes:

Tribute To Toots concert in Uruguay:

Playing with WDR Big Band:

Playing at the Blue Note in New York:

Sambatropolis with WDR Big Band:

Dolores Claiborne movie clip:

Podcast website:

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Spotify Playlist:
Also check out the Spotify Playlist, which contains most of the songs discussed in the podcast:

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Hendrik is first and foremost a jazz musician
Born in Germany and later moved to New York City
Had piano lessons as a child, played a little drums, but first serious instrument was the vibraphone
Famous vibraphone players
Toots inspired Hendrik to take up the chromatic
Doesn’t see any similarities between vibraphone and chromatic harmonica
Attended the Berkeley School of Music in 1977, where he studied vibraphone, playing some chromatic on the side
Entirely self-taught on chromatic
Saw Toots performing live a few times
Hendrik played a Toots tribute concert in Uruguay, shortly after Toots had passed away
Toots released two albums of Brazilian music
Chromatic harmonica works really well in Brazilian music, and some of the limitations of chromatic in jazz music
Hendrik fell in love with Brazilian music before he heard Toots play it
Recorded a live radio broadcast with Toots in Germany in the early 1990s
Hendrik performed at the 100th birthday celebration for Toots in Brussels in 2022
Moved back to Germany and played in a swing band and as a session musician for several years
Played with some big bands in Europe, and what’s it like playing with them
Plays Brazilian music, Samba Jazz, moving there for a year in the early 1980s to immerse himself in the music and culture
Strong harmonica presence in Brazilian music
Hendrik’s decision to move to Brazil in the early 80s was based on going to the source of the music
Had a regular Monday night gig in Rio, and how a German accepted by local musicians
Won first prize of the German Phono Academy for Jazz in 1983
Hendrik has recorded 26 albums in his own name
Recording albums is more of a challenge these days, due to streaming
Chromatic harmonica sound quality can be problematic when playing live. This isn’t a problem when recording
First album released was Samba Importado in 1989, recorded in Brazil
Composes a lot of songs on album himself
Story of how Hendrik signed with Concord records, with second album, Sambahia, including sax player Paquito D’Rivera
Signing with Concord earned Hendrik his Green Card into the US
Moved to New York in 1992, the best jazz scene in the world
Has performed at the Blue Note jazz club in New York
Competitive music environment of New York
Clear of Clouds album from 1992
First New York album was A View From Manhattan, recorded in 1993
October Colours album from 1994, Hendrik’s ‘desert island disc’
Album in 1997 with the New York Samba Jazz All-stars, and careful use of high notes on the chromatic
Two albums with eminent guitarist Mundell Lowe
Hendrik still likes to release albums even though the money return is not what it was
Amazon River album from 2004
Chorinho is another style of Brazilian music played by Hendrik
Junity album with pianist Misha Tsiganov
Harmonicus Rex album has Jimmy Cobb on drums, who was the drummer from the Miles Davis Kind of Blue album
Cabin In The Sky album from 2018, and albums that followed
Recently recorded a Christmas album
Some of other artists Hendrik has recorded with, mostly on New York session scene
Recordings with Bossa Nova piano legend Manfredo Fest
Wrote a song with the movie Dolores Claiborne, starring Kathy Burke, with Hendrik appearing in the movie playing the song
Hendrik uses the piano when composing (although he wouldn’t call himself a piano player), and writing lyrics
Has an online teaching resource and teaches online and private lessons
Appeared at the Trossingen festival in Germany in the 1990s
Hendrik’s view on the crop of current chromatic jazz players, which evolution of jazz supports
Challenges of playing jazz on the chromatic
The pros and cons of being accepted playing jazz on the chromatic harmonica
Doesn’t play any diatonic or any other type of harmonica besides chromatic
10 minute question and practise regime
Plays 12 hole chromatics only these days (used to play some 16 hole)
Only plays chromatic in key of C
Customiser sets-up Hendrik’s instrument
Plays Hohner 270 chromatics
Embouchre: lip purser
DM48 MIDI chromatic, doesn’t own one but sounds interesting
Favourite keys playing on C chromatic
Effects used is just reverb
Future plans