Monday, July 12, 2004

Three Nights of Advancement

There was a good article about Elvis Costello in the NY times this weekend. Here are some good parts:

Listeners and critics who expect performers to stay in their niches have repeatedly dismissed and then grudgingly rediscovered him, a cycle that clearly rankles Mr. Costello. "Sometimes the accusations of vanity about working in other areas are just so stupid," he said. "And a lot of it is down to the fact that you do something over a long period of time or you do something that's very heartfelt. Sometimes you want to grab somebody by the throat and say, `This is real life.' You get defensive about things you love."

Mr. Costello will turn 50 on Aug. 25, and he had originally booked a date at Carnegie Hall to celebrate the birthday. Then came a better offer: three nights at the Lincoln Center Festival this week, with three different ensembles and more than five dozen songs to learn, among them at least half a dozen that Mr. Costello has never recorded. On Tuesday, he is to sing with the Metropole Orkest, a 52-member jazz orchestra from the Netherlands that combines a big band with a string section. The concert will include arrangements by the guitarist Bill Frisell, by Mr. Costello's longtime pianist Steve Nieve and by Sy Johnson, who has done arrangements for the Mingus Orchestra.

On Thursday, it's back to rock. Mr. Costello is to perform with the Imposters, who include Mr. Nieve and the drummer Pete Thomas, both from his longtime rock band the Attractions, plus a bass player, Davey Faragher, who joined them in 2001. They have just completed an album at Sweet Tea Studios in Oxford, Miss., "The Delivery Man," that is due for release in September, and they are likely to perform some new songs. On Saturday the Brooklyn Philharmonic is to perform "Il Sogno," an orchestral score Mr. Costello wrote for an Italian dance company's adaptation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and to accompany Mr. Costello in full orchestral arrangements of his songs. A recording of "Il Sogno" conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas is also due for release in September.

I'm most excited about the score he has done for the Italian dance company. That's pretty advanced. A little more:

"The Delivery Man" [a new album] revs up the already ferocious attack the Imposters showed on "When I Was Cruel." While the songs were written before Mr. Costello arrived in Mississippi, the album is steeped in Southern Americana: the gospel-rooted grooves of Memphis soul, touches of pedal steel guitar, Southern-rooted guest singers including Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams and the storytelling that Southern soul shares with country music.

Initially, Mr. Costello had planned "The Delivery Man" as an album that told a story, along the lines of Willie Nelson's "Red-Headed Stranger." The setting is a small town, perhaps in the South; the main characters are three women. "It's an imaginary place but so is everything these days," he said. "But they are three particular types of person. One who imagines herself wilder and more dangerous than she is. Another who is very restrained and pious. And a young woman, a young girl really, a teenage girl who hasn't decided which way she wants to go in life. And they all in different ways look for something that they don't have in this guy who just passes through their life."
It's always advanced for a British guy to go record in the American South. "Gospel-rooted grooves" and "Memphis soul" just scream advancement. Also, using Willie Nelson (an advanced country musician) as an inspiration is beautiful. One more thing:

[about his new album] "It's the kind of rock and roll music that a man of my years can play without embarrassment. It doesn't sound processed. It's some guys playing in the room. I hate that expression good old rock and roll. When did it become good and when did it become old?"
It always comes back to rock'n'roll.

No comments: