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Jazz

Hendrik Meurkens with Misha Tsiganov, “Junity: Duo and Quartet” (HMS). A bedeviling question, if you let it be: the great blues harmonica players – the Sonny Terrys and Little Walter Jacobs of this world – have always been as bedrock American as can be, no matter how many British disciples they’ve had. So why is it that all the great jazz harmonica players – and I do mean all – have always been European? The greatest, of course, was the sublime Belgian Toots Thielmans. Not far behind, though, are the German-born Dutch musician Hendrik Meurkens and new additions Italian Enrico Granfei and Swiss-born Gregoire Maret (who has played in Bruce Eaton’s irreplaceable “Art of Jazz” series in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery). No American really comes anywhere close to them. This latest from Meurkens is one of his better discs. These are duos and quartets with Russian pianist Misha Tsiganov, whom Meurkens is happy to have played with for a decade and to hype as a Russian piano heir of Rachmaninoff (absurd, of course, but it’s good to have loyal friends, you know?). Their seven duo tracks are delicious. Not bad at all are the quartet tracks with bassist Oleg Osenkof and drummer Willard Dyson. Tunes include two Beatles’ songs (“Blackbird,” “Norwegian Wood”), bebop immortals (Monk’s “Ruby, My Dear,” Sonny Rollins’ “Pent-Up House” and Wes Montgomery’s “West Coast Blues”) and, yes, an adaptation of a Scriabin etude. The title combines the word “Unity” with “Junto,” the Brazilian word for “together” Together in every sense is this. 3½ stars (Jeff Simon)