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.

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