Posted on Oct 7th 2008 12:20 am
Loyal Label 2008
07 Tracks. 53mins08secs
With his first two albums as leader, Overseas, published on Fresh Sound New Talent in 2003, and its follow-up, Overseas II (FSNT, 2005), Norwegian-born jazz bassist Eivind Opsvik created a unique sonic universe which, although firmly set within contemporary jazz grounds, freely fed on rock, pop to ambient. Since, Opsvik has been involved in a variety of projects, of which perhaps the most prominent is his collaboration with guitarist Aaron Jennings, with whom he has released two albums to date.
Now returning with the full Overseas formation for a third slice of fine contemporary jazz like only Scandinavians musician can create. But, having lived in New York for ten years, Opsvik’s work is tainted with unique flavours. Together with Jacob Sacks (piano, keyboards), Tony Malaby (tenor saxophone), Kenny Wollesen (drums), Larry Campbell (pedal steel guitar) and Jeff Davis (vibraphone, xylophone), Opsvik weaves an intricate web of finely layered melodies and orchestrations, subtle undertones and complex moods, spread over the fifty three minutes and seven tracks collected here. The whole record rests on textural atmospheric foundations, which infiltrate the compositions to their deepest core and create an incredibly balanced and surprisingly robust ground for the formation to elaborate on. Since their last release, Overseas have regularly performed live in some of New York’s most renowned venues. The resulting symbiosis between the musicians is very palpable here, whether through slow progressive pieces such as Everseas, on which the band craft an incredibly restrained grid of sounds, led by Malaby’s whispering sax and Sacks’s feather-like Rhodes touches, or the all-out experimental and moody Whiff Of Wood, or on much more playful compositions, of which Ginger Rogers, with its clear-line piano clusters, or the fiery Breath Of Bark are the best examples.
As a regular member with a variety of formations himself, Opsvik knows that a great ensemble leader doesn’t so much drive a performance as draw it from its members. While his own interventions bind the whole project together, he provides his band members with their respective space. On Silver, it is initially Campbell who carries the piece with delicate slide guitar slates, but then, Sacks on piano, then Malaby on sax each give a particular relief to the piece. On Neil, a composition originally inspired by Neil Young’s Harvest, the same trio work subtle nuances over Opsvik’s warm upright bass, with added touches of vibraphone bringing a lighter sound palette in places.
The piece de resistance is to be found at the end of the record. The fifteen minute epic journey of Lull Of Lumber shows how the formation can pinpoint an emotional landscape exactly and refine it until it becomes an incredibly tight and powerful, yet vast and spacious, piece. Here, each musician in turn casts a shadow and defines a particular moment, but the progression remains exceptionally fluid and organic, so it is perfectly consistent all the way through, even at its darkest point.
Released on Eivind Opsvik’s own Loyal Label, Overseas III is a rather beautiful and expensive record. Opsvik and his formation are at the top of their game here, effortlessly moving from one environment to another with grace and determination. Overseas III builds on the format Opsvik developed on its predecessors, but this album is above a confident step forward, and one of the landmark jazz records of the year.