Steve Eliovson: Dawn Dance (ECM 1198)

ECM 1198

Steve Eliovson
Dawn Dance

Steve Eliovson acoustic guitar
Collin Walcott percussion
Recorded January 1981 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

This album is something of a legend in the annals of ECM lore, as it was the only ever recorded by the fantastically talented Steve Eliovson. With Collin Walcott on percussion for support, the since unheard-from guitarist carves lasting impressions that can now be thankfully heard on CD. The experience begins in “Venice” (as in California), where the guitar speaks with tabla like two continents connected by tectonic plates beneath an ocean. Eliovson’s sonorities are pristine, especially in “Earth End” and in “Slow Jazz,” where the precision of finger placement and the occasional bent note add a soulful turn of phrase. The album’s portal is “Awakening,” a submarine communion of gongs that closes one door while opening another. The title track is buoyed by a glimmering triangle and arpeggios from an internal guitar, while the external speaks in tongues with the various percussive accents that flit in and out of its view. “Song For The Masters” and “Wanderer” share likeminded ostinatos, more flexible melodic leads, and the occasional sitar-ish twang. The unambiguously titled “Africa” seems to prance across the map on which we opened, the all-steel sound visceral and true. Two gorgeous closers—“Memories” and “Eternity”—whisper their promises like secrets, falling with the autumn leaves into seasons as yet unnamed.

Sparse anecdotal evidence paints of Eliovson the portrait of a regretful artist, a man who was compelled to sell his worldly possessions (including the instruments of his trade) and return to his native South Africa. Yet we can also take pleasure in knowing that he left this one document, a jewel of quiet magnificence. Better to have been given this single completed journey than a series of false starts.

<< Meredith Monk: Dolmen Music (ECM 1197 NS)
>> Katrina Krimsky/Trevor Watts: Stella Malu (ECM 1199)

3 thoughts on “Steve Eliovson: Dawn Dance (ECM 1198)

  1. Glad for this review because it induced me to give this a long-overdue listen. I recall purchasing the LP upon release and listening to it endlessly……as a bit of a guitar player myself, I was delighted that it wasn’t impossible to figure out some of S E’s riffs, so it was a great play-along-with record. I have to say that even though it’s been several years between listens, it sounds as fresh as the day it was released. There is perhaps a hint of Bill Connors in this music (from his two ECM acoustic releases), but has a bit more clarity – and of course, benefits greatly from Colin Walcott’s perfect percussion coloring.

    ECM lovers probably use this line frequently (due to the catalog being so vast) – but this is likely a very underrated release that deserves to be heard much more widely. And if only Mr. Eliovson could be convinced to record a follow up!

  2. Great work! I found the vinyl days ago. Then, I tried to find some info about Eliovson, but it´s almost imposible. The man “is gone”, like Keyser Söze.

  3. Steve left this world on March 15 2020, of cancer, in Johannesburg South Africa, the land of his birth. See the video post of his burial done by 2 devoted fans on Youtube. Read the good essay there (“see more” button). ECM should offer up any bio material they have so that the world may learn more about this amazing talent, and why so little of his wonderful music was recorded.

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