Fantastic Merlins | Look Around

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Jazz: Chamber Jazz Jazz: Avant-Garde Jazz Moods: Type: Improvisational
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Look Around

by Fantastic Merlins

The spiritual kin of bass sorcerer Francois Rabbath; Albert Ayler's vibrational, gospel-tinged sonorities; Bill Frisell's spacious, meteorological impulses; Sonny Rollins' hopscotch antics.
Genre: Jazz: Chamber Jazz
Release Date: 

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1. Look Around
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7:28 album only
2. I Was Behind the Couch All the Time
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3:19 album only
3. A Very Small Animal
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5:56 album only
4. It Would Seem
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7:44 album only
5. Letting Go
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5:32 album only
6. Dance Partner
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4:08 album only
7. Runoff Water
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4:37 album only
8. Lenny
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5:19 album only
9. Line
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7:18 album only
10. Bright and Wide
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4:57 album only
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
“The Fantastic Merlins make improvised music with the spirit that’s the impetus behind the best jazz. They might not have chord progressions, they may not “blow” the way that Charlie Parker did, but they capture the intensity, freedom and flat-out beauty of some of John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler.”
--Pulse Magazine (Steve McPherson)


“It’s refreshing when a band like the Fantastic Merlins comes along and is able to truly push the limits of jazz improvisation, pulling in a variety of genre-bending elements while maintaining enough familiarity and melodic substance to captivate the listener...They are a band for bored ears.”
--How Was the Show (Andrea Myers)

“Although some incontrovertible influences are caught here and there - Curlew circa Tom Cora, to name one - these people know what they’re doing; desolate themes, vigorous lines and engaging improvisations are intertwined with delicate concentration and a masterful pacing of every section, the tension/release ratio remaining at a constantly balanced grade. On top of everything, the musicians look for a collective coherence rather than straining themselves to put their excellent technical value in front of the listener, which is a major plus...”
--Touching Extremes (Massimo Ricci)

“I also recommend hearing The Fantastic Merlins...They’re working on the fertile turbulent boundaries of many musical categories, setting their classical training and adventurous spirits on jazz bedrock--definitely a way to get the Paul Seal of Approval...you’d best get out and hear them in person!”
--Minnesota Public Radio (Paul Cantrell)

“Amidst the ever-growing field of boundary-pushing groups forced by default into the annoyingly broad category "jazz," The Fantastic Merlins stand out...This is music for all ears, performed by musicians who impress by way of the heart.”
--Violet Magazine (Eric Fawcett)

“Bringing together an unconventional mix of instruments and a shared penchant for experimentation, New York and Minneapolis based combo the Fantastic Merlins make music that's unpredictable and steeped in emotion. Alternately upbeat and meditative, the cello, bass, sax and drum interplay make for a sound that's part avant-garde jazz, part chamber music, part boundary-breaking sonic journey.”
-- Mliwaukee Shepherd Express

Top Ten CDs of 2005, #7 (Live EP)
--Steve McPherson, Pulse Magazine

Best Live Shows of 2006, Honorable Mention
--MinneapolitanMusic for Rift Magazine

“Really very beautiful!”
--John Ziegler, Program Director, KUMD Radio, Duluth

Intensely cinematic and entirely unique, the rare beauty of New York and
Minneapolis based instrumental combo The Fantastic Merlins begins with the group's unusual blend of cello, bass, saxophone, and drums. Replete with stunning dynamics and melodies that range from playful to mournful, the resulting style encompasses avant-garde jazz and chamber music alike, as well as everything in between: classical-yet-contemporary experimentalism, complex rhythms, and breathtaking improvisation.
For Rome-to-NYC transplant Federico Ughi (drums), even the ideas he
commits to memory or shares in rehearsal are ultimately “a ramp to this
improvisation,” and saxophonist Nathan Hanson insists the structural
flexibility suits the group just fine: “Some pieces are very similar from one
performance to the next; some are never the same twice.”

While this kind of genre-bending anti-pop typically caters to the jazz or
classical crowd, Brian Roessler (bass) has noticed The Fantastic Merlins are already attracting a widely diverse audience. “A lot of people out there seem to be hungry for the kind of thing we’re doing. Our goal is to connect with these people.”

The Fantastic Merlins formed in early 2005 as the result of a couple of
informal playing sessions: The previous summer, Roessler recruited longtime friend and collaborator Hanson and Minneapolis cellist Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan to play a few gigs as a trio. Agreeing they were on to something special, Hanson called on Ughi to complete the group, and everyone rendezvoused in Minneapolis to play some shows and track a record.

Since the foursome came together on the strength of artistic reputation and shared interest with little regard for the breakdown of instrumentation, the sound that emerged was a discovery in its own right. “People have commented on the auspicious interaction between cello and saxophone, or between cello and bass,” says Ferrier-Ultan. “Their timbres blend so beautifully you can’t always tell which instrument is playing what.”

According to Roessler, this kind of seamless acoustic integration is precisely what The Fantastic Merlins are after. “We all seem to have a unified vision of what kind of textures and feelings we want to create, without ever having to talk about it.” In the end, the music says more than enough.


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