This is a group that seems to be growing with each new step. My second encounter with the quartet, “Look around” doesn’t want to assail the senses with futile rage or drooling melancholy, neither is strictly classifiable in a category. It obviously shows jazz roots, but possesses the qualities of an enviable stylistic maturity explicated through the soundtrack-like features of several of the tracks. Curiously enough, cellist Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan, probably the most prominent voice of the ensemble, is also the only member who didn’t originate a piece (except being credited in the final improvisation). Yet her heartfelt lines are the ones blurring the border between harmonic consciousness and desire to evade the canonic aspects of composition. Drummer Federico Ughi and bassist Brian Roessler don’t strive to capture a place in the sun, focusing instead on their capacities of generating the right tonalities for the music to evolve, while Nathan Hanson’s tenor sax is the “complementary alternative” to Ferrier-Ultan in the band’s choice of thematic delivery. Atmospheres are quite differentiated from a section to another, with predilection for a gradually opening slow motion revealing a multitude of facets that the ears welcome as a reminiscence of situations that we used to enjoy, and that now are no more. There’s even a riff-based, pseudo funk song (“Lenny”) that demonstrates Fantastic Merlins’ versatility and will to change the cards on the table throughout the game. Forget all the names and comparisons (hey, did anyone realize that Bill Frisell hasn’t been playing something meaningful for a decade?) which render no justice to this ensemble’s determination in finding a unique language. They’re doing pretty good in that respect.


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