The third release by Eivind Opsvik's Overseas project puts the bassist's compositional interests in sharp focus. The high level of trust and the common vocabulary shared between these musicians is evident in every moment of the record, from the frenetic energy or empathic dialogue in the improvisations to cleanly executed readings of the written material. Saxophonist Tony Malaby, pianist Jacob Sacks and drummer Kenny Wollesen form the core of the group with Jeff Davis providing some excellent vibraphone and glockenspiel and Larry Campbell adding lap steel. With Sacks on an array of keyboards as well, there is a wonderfully expanded timbral palette.
It is a credit to Opsvik's writing that the pieces all have a very distinct character, referencing minimalist drone rock on "Breath of Bark" (with the repeating melodic figures juxtaposed against some of Malaby's most freewheeling aggressive blowing), or employing an austerity that calls to mind John Cage's earliest, Satie-inspired piano music at the beginning of "Ginger Rogers". Much of Overseas III has an almost cinematic emphasis on mood and the melancholy wistfulness of "Lull of Lumber" feels like end credits for a David Lynch film. Opsvik's carefully constructed orchestrations effectively prescribe mood while weaving each distinct voice into the music's fabric.
Opsvik has also recently appeared as a sideman on two other notable discs. Drummer Kevin Brow's Koptor
features the aforementioned Sacks with Rob Mosher on soprano saxophone and oboe. Brow's tunes call to mind both of Keith Jarrett's quartets, which is in some ways a dream combination, benefitting from all the gentle lyricism of the European quartet while focusing on the more propulsive drive of the American band, as on "Second New Koptor" or "Underground". There is plenty of blowing room here but, nonetheless, the performances are always as much about highlighting Brow's wonderful writing as they are about the fiery improvisations it facilitates.
Jeff Davis and Opsvik are the rhythm team supporting pianist Jesse Stacken on This That
. Stacken directs the trio's energy more through the often- fractured rhythmic abstractions of his piano work than through thematically-driven compositions though there are plenty of wonderful ones here; "Shady Oak," "Distraction" and "Ignored" are fine displays of his fluency with ambitious rhythmic structures. Nonetheless, the ear can't help but be drawn to the extemporaneous invention that flows from Stacken's playing. Davis provides emphatic support, matching Stacken's knack for multiplicity with fluid time- keeping and colorful, lush cymbal work. As with Opsvik's Overseas project, this is an ensemble that has worked together for a while now. The energy ebbs and flows, displaying unity towards a common direction, even as fragments of tonalities and rhythmic fluidity are strewn throughout the sonic environment.
Tracks and Personnel Overseas III
Tracks: 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. Koptor
Tracks: Frograbbit; Maske I Overmorgen; How Does Water Flow; Outer Spokes Center Hole; Underground; Imaginary Lines; Black Bear; Jeg Gjorde Det I Forgars; First New Koptor; Second New Koptor; Third New Koptor; Kobs Mejkr.
Personnel: Kevin Brow: drums; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Jacob Sacks: piano; Rob Mosher: alto saxophone, English horn. This That
Tracks: Distractions; Sad Sidewalk; North Shore; Inventor; Bulge in Tire; Ignored; Birds in Slow Motion; Climb a Tree; That That; Current.
Personnel: Jesse Stacken: piano; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Jeff Davis: drums.