Steve Nieve (born Steven Nason, 19 February 1958, in London, England) is a keyboardist, best known for his work
with Elvis Costello.
The Royal College of Music student joined Costello's backing band The Attractions in 1977. He played on most of Costello's projects over the next ten years, including the albums This Year's Model (1978), Imperial Bedroom (1982), and Blood & Chocolate (1986). He wrote the material on The Attractions' Costello-less album, Mad About The Wrong Boy, under the name Norman Brain, in collaboration with his wife, Fay Hart. (The back of Trust's faux movie poster has Nieve "as Steve Hart".)
In the mid 1980s, Costello began to work less frequently with The Attractions and stopped working with them entirely between 1987 and 1993. During this period, Nieve focused on session work for other artists (The Neville Brothers, Hothouse Flowers, Graham Parker, Squeeze, Tim Finn, Kirsty MacColl, Madness) and led the house band on Jonathan Ross' UK TV series The Last Resort.
Costello reunited The Attractions for 1994's album Brutal Youth. Although the reunion was relatively short-lived (they split again in 1996), the Costello/Nieve collaborations never stopped. They have toured as a duo, and Nieve has contributed keyboards to all of Costello's albums since the mid-1990s, including 1998's Burt Bacharach collaboration Painted From Memory, 2001's Anne-Sofie von Otter collaboration For The Stars, and 2003's North. In 2001, Costello formed a new backing band consisting of Nieve, Attractions drummer Pete Thomas, and bassist Davey Faragher.
The band was subsequently dubbed The Imposters. Elvis Costello & The Imposters have toured extensively and released the albums When I Was Cruel (2002), Cruel Smile (2003) The Delivery Man (2004), and The River In Reverse (2006) with Allen Toussaint.
In addition to his work with Costello, Nieve has released several solo albums, including Keyboard Jungle (1983), Playboy (1987), It's Raining Somewhere (1996), Mumu (2001), and Windows (2004).
In 2003 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Elvis Costello & The Attractions.
Nieve's opera, Welcome To The Voice, a collaboration with Muriel T odori, is released on Deutsche Grammophon in May 2007. Welcome To The Voice is a multifaceted piece that welcomes voices from different musical worlds. It lives on the juxtaposition of men who have rough, untrained voices, coming from jazz or rock (Robert Wyatt, Elvis Costello, Sting), with women who have classically trained voices (Barbara Bonney, Amanda Roocroft, Nathalie Manfrino, Sara Fulgoni). The score has been composed for the Brodsky Quartet while Marc Ribot, Ned Rothenberg, and Steve Nieve himself improvise with a jazz feeling.
In recent years Nieve has lived in France
with T odori.
'We are the Wokers' from 'Welcome to the Voice', a work by Muriel Teodori and Steve Nieve
Composer, Steve Nieve and playwright, Muriel Teodori collaborate with his rock comrades Elvis Costello, Robert Wyatt and Sting as well as opera stars Barbara Bonney, Amanda Roocroft, Sara Fulgoni, and Nathalie Manfrino, celebrating the voice's sensory, even extra-sensory power, in Welcome To the Voice. This modern opera aims to unite the black and white precision of classical writing with the color of chance and "happy accidents" associated with improvised music. The result is an exquisite and colorful body of work that opens a door to a new frontier in music. The creators of this "work about unlikely encounters" are composer Steve Nieve and librettist Muriel Teodori. Nieve, a classically trained pianist-composer from London, has been a fixture in Elvis Costello's bands since 1977. A solo musician in his own right, Nieve has worked with artists from David Bowie to Anne Sofie von Otter, while Teodori, with whom Nieve has shared his life for over a decade, is a psychoanalyst, author, filmmaker, and playwright.
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Many of rock's most beloved songwriters come packaged with equally great backing bands: Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. We think Elvis Costello and the Attractions deserve a place in this pantheon, too. It's almost impossible to imagine Costello's best work-albums like This Year's Model, Armed Forces, and Imperial Bedroom-without Steve Nieve's dazzling keyboard, Pete Thomas' superhuman drumming, and Bruce Thomas' imaginative basslines.
After Costello's seemingly irreparable bust-up with the latter Thomas in the mid-1990s, the Attractions called it quits but Elvis remained simpatico with Steve Nieve. Some of his most successful work in the 1990s can be found on live recordings of the duo in stripped-down acoustic mode, Nieve providing elegant accompaniment to a host of winningly re-arranged Costello originals, including a devastating rendering of "All This Useless Beauty." "I genuinely love his music and love working with him," Nieve told Mojo in 2015. "I've worked with a lot of different people, and he's one of the few who's prepared to take a bit of a risk. Nothing is ever the same, he doesn't like doing the same set twice. Quite often we go out onstage to play he'll do the first three things on the set list and then... off he goes."
This week, Costello and the Imposters will release Look Now, their first new LP in over a decade, so it's a perfect time to look back at the Attractions' legacy via some choice live rarities from over the years, on Pitchfork's Invisible Hits:
Invisible Hits is a column in which Tyler Wilcox scours the internet for the best (and strangest) bootlegs, rarities, outtakes, and live clips.
Composer, Steve Nieve and playwright, Muriel Teodori collaborate with his rock comrades Elvis Costello, Robert Wyatt and Sting as well as opera stars Barbara Bonney, Amanda Roocroft, Sara Fulgoni, and Nathalie Manfrino,– celebrating the voice's sensory, even extra-sensory power. This modern opera aims to unite the black and white precision of classical writing with the color of chance and "happy accidents" associated with improvised music. The result is an exquisite and colorful body of work that opens a door to a new frontier in music.
The creators of this "work about unlikely encounters" are composer Steve Nieve and librettist Muriel Teodori. Nieve, a classically trained pianist-composer from London, has been a fixture in Elvis Costello's bands since 1977. A solo musician in his own right, Nieve has worked with artists from David Bowie to Anne Sofie von Otter, while Teodori, with whom Nieve has shared his life for over a decade, is a psychoanalyst, author, filmmaker, and playwright.
Welcome to the Voice sustains a dreamlike quality and fascination throughout its seventy minutes. Even the music finds a unique voice of its own and is a tribute in equal measure to its authors and to its illustrious interpreters. "This work took their style into a more elaborate structure, doing its part to break down generic divides further." Bill Crandall from RollingStone found that "disparate voices become united, beauty prospers over tedium, and, most importantly, the guy gets the girl. It's not a new story, but from the inspired brains of Nieve and Teodori... it's a sublime one."
"The story of Welcome to the Voice is extremely basic, very simple", says Muriel Teodori. It deals with the steelworker Dionysos, son of a Greek immigrant, whose passion for opera music develops into a powerful infatuation with an operatic diva. The entire plot takes place on the steps of an opera house. Dionysos (Sting) is visited by the ghosts of Carmen (Sara Fulgoni), Norma (Amanda Roocroft), and Madame Butterfly (Nathalie Manfrino); his friend (Robert Wyatt of the legendary band Soft Machine) tries to convince him of the futility of his obsession. When he finally meets the object of his adoration (Barbara Bonney) he wants to embrace her, and to kiss her, but she is frightened by his passion. The police chief (Elvis Costello) arrives to arrest him.
"Traditionally you're supposed to kill off the lover at the end of an opera," says Muriel Teodori, "but in this one, nobody dies. Dionysos tries to convince the diva that their love can overcome all differences. The final word of Welcome to the Voice is 'yes' and we asked everyone to sing it – the singers, the musicians, the technicians – that says it all."