Steve Nieve, Elvis Costello’s longtime keyboard genius band member, has a new album of duet performances called ToGetHer and co-starring Costello, Sting, Ron Sexmith, Tall Ulyss, Robert Wyatt, Harper Simon, Alain Chamfort, Muriel Teodori, Cali, Vanessa Paradis, Laurie Anderson, Joe Sumner and Glenn Tilbrook.
“All the people on it are people I’ve worked with in the past,” says Nieve, a member of Costello’s original band The Attractions and current group The Imposters.
“So they’re all people I’ve obviously developed relationships with, which is why the album hangs together the way it does: There’s a bond between all the people I collaborated with.”
His most recent albums focusing on pianistic soundscapes (Lazy Point, 2012, and Windows, 2004) and opera (Welcome To The Voice, 2007, with Teodori), ToGetHer is an acknowledged return to the song-orientation of Mumu (2001), this time with the duet approach.
“It started as a sort of Mumu 2 in the thought process, then became Twogether, then ToGetHer—which gave it another twist,” says Nieve. “And the songs came in pairs, in a way: ‘Up,’ and ‘Vertigo.’ ‘I Do Not Miss You (Nostalgia #2)’ and ‘Burn The Past.’ So it was kind of a duet among the songs as well.”
The music theorist further traces ToGetHer’s origins to a tour he did in 2010 with Tilbrook that also starred Vincent Segal on cello—who appears on ToGetHer, too.
“I did a lot with cello, then started working with Tall Ulyss, a young drummer. So there’s a lot of piano and drums worked into all the songs.”
Nieve notes that a short East Coast club tour with Ulyss allowed the material to mature prior to entering the studio, “like the way we did it in the early days of The Attractions. We worked the songs in a bit more, and after that the whole idea of working the songs as duets started to take over and became almost like an exercise of a style of writing, to see if I could make some songs that are suitable for people I’m collaborating with to sing.”
He’s now satisfied that his co-workers “all sound like they’re in a natural space.” And he’s especially grateful to the younger musicians.
“Working with them was a really enlightening part of the project for me,” he says. “People like Tall Ulyss, Joe Sumner, Harper Simon. We made a lot of good music together, but also there was a lot of discussion about the music they listen to: The way they look at music is so different from the way I look at music. I’m kind of a dreamy ethereal pianist on my own stuff, and they help me to get my focus slightly back on my energetic side, which was a good transfer.”
Nieve has promoted ToGetHer with performances in New York and Los Angeles, and music videos including a fan-participation concept for lead track “Save The World,” featuring Ulyss.
He’s enlisted people to scrawl “Save the world” on their hands and send iPhone photos for inclusion in the clip to his Facebook page, where “an astronomical number” have been submitted so far.
The photos will also be incorporated into a “constantly updated photo wall” on a forthcoming website dedicated to the album, “so people can continue to upload them.”
Tomorrow (Oct. 28) Nieve tapes an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, with collaborators Costello and Sumner. They will perform ToGetHer's Costello duet "Tender Moment."
In December, Nieve has three shows with Costello & The Imposters in Japan. He then looks to explore his idea of making solo piano recordings of music by his favorite artists.
“The first is probably Neil Young, but there are so many people I’d love to do,” he says. “If I do it, it will be like an encyclopedia of piano!”
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