Eivind Opsvik: Overseas III (2008)
Bassist Eivind Opsvik's third offering from his Overseas group, cunningly named Overseas III, distills and centers the eclectic influences that made up Overseas (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2003) and Overseas II (FSNT, 2005) while once again displaying his unique compositional skills that allow both accessibility for the listener and room for his talented players.
The core personnel of the group has remained: Opsvik on bass, Jacob Sacks, who plays five different keyboards, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, drummer/percussionist Kenny Wollesen and Jeff Davis, who switches to vibes and xylophone from drums. Replacing Loren Stillman and Craig Taborn from Overseas II is pedal steel guitarist Larry Campbell, who is an inspired choice.
Pedal steel guitar cannot but help to suggest American country music, and even more the earlier generation that was closer to the country roots of Nashville than today's slick music. Overseas III has a very strong American West feel to it, with images of big sky, open space and nature predominating, cemented by the Campbell.
Opsvik's compositions sound like no one else, even if it is hard to pin down exactly what identifies them. In this respect, Opsvik is like his frequent playing partner David Binney, who also brings eclectic influences to bear, while remaining singularly recognizable. This release is similar to the previous two in its layering, with a lower overall energy, but having a theme tying the varying tracks together creates an album that has an organic wholeness to it that is very satisfying.
The opening track, "Neil," inspired by Neil Young's Harvest (Reprise, 1972), starts with extremely simple, almost plodding drums, bass patterns and harmonic movement that keep the energy very low. However, once Campbell enters and fills out the harmony, the piece grows in stature. When Sacks and Malaby join, playing a line that continually clashes with the harmony, the added complexity and piquancy provides an irony that brings on a smile.
"Everseas" and "Silver" are both ambient pieces that paint strong images of natureboth sea and landin its glory and beauty, but with a touch of danger to ensure the need to respect it is remembered. The mood and sonics change drastically in "Ginger Rogers," which is dominated by an arpeggio played at first on a very dry piano that sounds almost out of tune. A very intense, almost disconcerting piano solo occupies the central section and its clash with the tranquil bass and drums maintains the need for a fine-tuned attention.
After passing through two shorter tracks, "Breath of Bark" and "Whiff of Wood," almost the last third of the album is given over to "Lull of Lumber," which is inspired by Pink Floyd's large soundscapes. Creating a stunning musical journey in slowly building sections, this piece ties together all of the emotions and sounds of the album.
With Overseas III, Eivind Opsvik continues to grow and impress with his compositional breadth and control.
Track Listing: Neil; Everseas; Silver; Ginger Rogers; Breath of Bark; Whiff of Wood; Lull of Lumber.
Personnel: Eivind Opsvik: upright bass, tack piano; Jacob Sacks: piano, Farfisa organ, celeste, Wurlitzer; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Kenny Wollesen: drums, cymbals, gongs, timpani; Larry Campbell: pedal steel guitar; Jeff Davis: vibraphone, xylophone.