Album Remarks & Appraisals:
All About Jazz - Troy Collins
For the past decade, Norwegian-born, New York-based bassist Eivind Opsvik has been leading his venerable Overseas ensemble through a variety of musical terrain, first heard on their self-titled 2003 Fresh Sound New Talent debut. Overseas IV, the second Overseas album to be released on Opsvik's own Loyal Label, features a stripped-down version of the original line-up, albeit one more expansive in its range of musical expression. Inspired in part by Sofia Coppola's 2006 film Marie Antoinette, this fourth recording from Opsvik's flagship band is the strongest yet.
As Opsvik states in a press release about Coppola's movie, "I loved the way modern music was mixed with the imagery of 18th century France." Opsvik inverts this dynamic, seamlessly incorporating antique instrumentation and bygone music forms into a contemporary setting. A key element in this equation is veteran keyboardist Jacob Sacks' addition of harpsichord to his arsenal; the instrument's metallic timbre and classical affiliations imbue the proceedings with an evocative baroque air. In contrast, the newest member, guitar wunderkind Brandon Seabrook, provides a hefty dose of visceral modernity with a riotous patchwork of punk rock attitude and futuristic psychedelia - yet his amplified fretwork unexpectedly harmonizes with the Old World charm of Sacks' scintillating arpeggios. Longstanding drummer Kenny Wollessen and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby feature prominently as well, their multihued efforts playing vital roles in Overseas' melodious sound. ... read more...
Personnel: Brandon Seabrook (electric guitar, mandolin); Tony Malaby (saxophone); Jacob Sacks (piano, harpsichord, Farfisa); Kenny Wollesen (vibraphone, drums, cymbals, timpani).
Audio Mixer: Eivind Opsvik.
Recording information: The Magic Shop, New York City (08/03/2011-08/04/2011).
Photographer: Michelle Arcila.
Eivind Opsvik is known as a jazz bassist, but Overseas, Vol. 4 (like the others in the series) is perhaps closer to soundtrack music than traditional Jazz. He seems to be more interested in creating a mood than a lasting melody. To this end, he assembled a very sympathetic band (Tony Malaby/sax, Brandon Seabrook/guitar and mandolin, Jacob Sacks/harpsichord, piano, farfisa, and Kenny Wollesen/drums, percussion, etc) that really understands what Opsvik is going for. The album starts with a piece that almost sounds like some kind of classical processional with its tympani and harpsichord. The opening pieces favor long tones and lots of space. Kenny Wollesen is one of the tastiest and most musical drummers out there and a real asset to Opsvik's compositions. "1786" starts slowly with just Wollesen. Sacks joins on harpsichord for a while but switches to piano when things start to pick up. The drums become more insistent as Opsvik joins with a great bass ostinato. Malaby enters and turns in a killer solo over the groove, eventually joined by Seabrook. It's a stunning piece. The bowed bass and harpsichord of "Silkweavers' Song" again evokes classical music, as does "Men on Horses." Then they decide to rock out a bit. "Robbers and Fairground Folk" has Seabrook wailing over Malaby's sax riffing. "Michelle Marie" and "Nineteen to the Dozen" give Seabrook a bit more room to stretch out. After that, things take a turn back toward the cinematic (and slightly ominous) with "Det Kalde Havet" and finish up with some chain-gang call-and-response between bass and guitar. The prominent harpsichord helps make Overseas, Vol. 4 a unique-sounding album that's also an unqualified success thanks to Opsvik's vision and a great band. ~ Sean Westergaard