It’s become commonplace to speak of open-minded progressive jazz composers as looking simultaneously forward and backward, reaching into the past while pushing into the future. The time span in question, however, can typically be measured in decades, spanning, say, hard bop to the avant-garde.
On the fourth release by his eclectic Overseas group, bassist/composer Eivind Opsvik widens those horizons to encompass centuries. The album opens in the Baroque, with Jacob Sacks’ graceful harpsichord accompanying Kenny Wollesen’s booming timpani on “They Will Hear the Drums—And They Will Answer.” Tony Malaby’s emotive tenor takes over in the piece’s second half to add a touch of operatic drama. The ensemble immediately time-jumps forward to the post-rock era on “White Armour,” with shifting rhythms underlying a constantly evolving atmosphere conjured by Brandon Seabrook’s mandolin or Malaby’s long, sinuous lines, all submerged in Sacks’ mesmerizing Farfisa drone.
The Modern and the Romantic continue to bleed into one another throughout Overseas IV. Sacks’ harpsichord is key to the unusual sound, but proves to be more adaptable than simply an evocation of an antique past. Its hollow percussiveness offers a bizarre foil to Seabrook’s coiling fuzz-funk guitar lines on “Michelle Marie,” while its tinny resonance adds a stark complement to the desolate guitar howling and Malaby’s foghorn bellowing on the Morricone-esque “Det Kalde Havet.”
The album concludes with “Youth Hopeth All Things, Believeth All Things,” its stomping/clapping metronome and anthemic guitar pitching it somewhere between chain gang and glam rock. Incongruous, yes, but this band thrives on straddling such discontinuities.