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Eivind Opsvik is going to be very interesting to watch over the next couple of years. The bassist is forging an identity that belies simple labeling and is creating an interesting body of work. Overseas II is the second release under his own name for the Fresh Sound New Talent label and continues where the fine 2002 release Overseas left off.
Like his first release, Overseas II features a stellar cast of musicians presented in varying group formats from solo celeste recitals to quintet formations. Yet the recording never fails to maintain focus in overall sound or concept. (I hesitate to label this music as part of the burgeoning Norwegian sound, but the term is apt.) From the onset of the opening track, "Planned Future, one can clearly distinguish this album from anything else currently being produced. An almost lullaby-like line from Jacob Sacks' celeste sets the stage for a slow stroll featuring Tony Malaby, who eventually builds the song's simple structure into a torrid solo.
And as invigorating as these solos may be, the underlying compositions are far from the common soloing vehicle, working within a logic of their own that's complimented by each additional composition. The barely minute-long "Craig Taborn Plays Celeste serves the album concept, rather than simply providing a breathing space before the next track. Ultimately it is Taborn and Jacob Sacks who really serve as the binding material throughout the album, whether playing celeste, piano, wurlitzer, or organ. The two compliment each other and Opsvik's music so well that one can scarcely imagine the album with anyone else holding down these chairs.
However, the fire or idiosyncratic voices Taborn and others may employ on their own albums is subdued here, the overall sound only disrupted occasionally by Malaby or Loren Stillman moving above the rest of the group and only in context. This is another achievement for the album: like with Overseas, it is wonderful to see everyone work within context and not for personal gain. An achievement that, when coupled with all the others, amounts to another fine album from Eivind Opsvik. Where and how he continues to develop is going to be a very interesting ride indeed.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.