Fantastic Merlins Live

This 31-minute EP is a promising first release from this Minneapolis/NYC unit. The tenor/cello/bass/drums configuration gives the five pieces on the disc a rich palette from which to paint a diverse sonic canvas. The funky bite of saxophonist Nathan Hanson’s "Lenny” opens the set. Insistent drums from Rome-born Federico Ughi propel the strong tenor line, while the pitch-bending cello melody by Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan takes an exotic path leading to a striking solo culmination. The next three compositions, two by Ughi and one by bassist Brian Roessler, produce a triple view of thematic chamber improvisation, freely stated unison or harmonised melodies slowly unfolding with tinges of Jan Gabarek and Albert Ayler filling out the moody similar themes. Hanson’s "I Was on the Couch All the Time” brings the disc to a muscular close. The resonant blend of tenor sax, cello and arco bass imbue the group’s sound with a meaty, full-bodied presence that rewards repeated listening. (Independent)