The Clarksdale Sessions
ELVIS COSTELLO is the stage name of self-taught songwriter Declan MacManus. He first performed in public in 1969, and began his recording career in 1977 with the making of the album My Aim Is True. Since then, he has made more than a dozen albums, as a solo artist and with the group, The Attractions. These include This Year's Model, Armed Forces, Get Happy!!, Imperial Bedroom, King of America, Blood & Chocolate, Spike, Mighty Like A Rose, Brutal Youth, Kojak Variety and All This Useless Beauty.
In 1992 Costello began his collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet. The Juliet Letters was released and followed by a highly successful world tour. In 1994 he was guest vocalist on the Grammy Award-winning record MTV Unplugged by Tony Bennett. Later that year Costello acted as Artistic Director of the South Bank's Meltdown Festival. He was also commissioned by them to write for the viol group, Fretwork and the counter tenor, Michael Chance, for a project in commemoration of the tercentenary of Henry Purcell's death. In 1997 Put Away Forbidden Playthings was included in the Sit Fast collection on Virgin Classics.
1996 began with Elvis Costello performing in Stockholm alongside Anne Sofie von Otter with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He concluded that year's work with the premiere of a new composition for Anne Sofie von Otter and The Brodsky Quartet entitled Three Distracted Women.
January 1997 saw Costello and The Brodsky Quartet join forces once again when they undertook a short concert tour of Spain. They subsequently went on to work together on a number of compositional collaborations. He was also a featured vocalist on John Harle's album, Terror & Magnificence. Costello performed O Mistress Mine, one of three settings from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
In July 1997 The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, under the direction of Sir Neville Mariner, performed Costello's music for Tom Thumb, narrated by Zoë Ball. Costello was also invited to appear in a cameo role in the Spice Girls' feature film, Spice World.
Many of Costello's 300 or so songs have been recorded by other artists. The list of performers reflects his interest in a wide range of musical styles: Chet Baker, Johnny Cash, June Tabor, Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, Charles Brown and George Jones among them. In addition, Costello has written with his wife, Caît O'Riordan, Paul McCartney, Bill Frisell and Richard Harvey, with whom he collaborated on the BAFTA award-winning score for Alan Bleasdale's television series G.B.H. He worked with Harvey again in the Alan Bleasdale series Jake's Progress.
As a record producer, Costello has worked with The Specials, Squeeze and The Pogues. As a guest vocalist, he contributed to Hal Wilner's Weird Nightmare, a celebration of the music of Charles Mingus. He wrote lyrics for the Mingus composition, This Subdues My Passion, which was performed with the Mingus Big Band at the Free Jazz festival in Brazil in 1997. More recently in 2001, Costello has once again appeared in two live performances with the Mingus Band.
Costello has recorded and appeared with, among others, Sam Moore, Bob Dylan, The Jazz Passengers, Neil Young, The Chieftains, The Count Basie Orchestra, The Mingus Orchestra and with the gospel group, The Fairfield Four. As a guest vocalist he is featured on The Fairfield Four's Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray album, performing the McCartney/Costello composition, That Day Is Done. The album went on to win a Grammy Award in 1997.
He has also performed on tribute albums to Joni Mitchell and Gram Parsons. Costello also worked once again with record producer T-Bone Burnett on the Costello/O'Riordan composition My Mood Swings, which was featured in the Coen Brothers' motion picture The Big Lebowski.
Following their successful collaboration on the Grammy-nominated song God Give Me Strength, which was specially composed for the Allison Anders-directed film Grace Of My Heart, Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach once again collaborated in the acclaimed album Painted From Memory. The album features Steve Nieve, of The Attractions, on keyboards with Bacharach on piano, as well as a 24-piece string section, brass and woodwinds. Costello and Bacharach won a Grammy Award for "Best Collaboration with Vocals - 1998" for the album track, I Still Have That Other Girl.
In 1999 Costello was asked to record a version of Charles Aznavour's She to feature on the soundtrack of Richard Curtis's much acclaimed film Notting Hill. In addition Costello also recorded, with Burt Bacharach, a version of the classic I'll Never Fall In Love Again for Mike Myers' Austin Powers 2, The Spy Who Shagged Me. He also appeared in a cameo role in the film. Also during 1999 Costello completed two world tours with his long-time collaborator and ex-Attractions pianist, Steve Nieve.
In April 2000 Costello was nominated for a BAFTA for his contribution to the score of Alan Bleasdale's adaptation of Oliver Twist for a Channel 4 series. 2000 also saw Costello working on several projects including a commission to write the score for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by the Aterballetto dance company of Reggio Emilia, Italy. In late 2000 he featured as a vocalist on Roy Nathanson's album, The Fire At Keaton's Bar & Grill, which received its critically acclaimed performance premiere in New York in June last year. In addition, he worked on a new project with mezzo soprano, Anne Sofie von Otter, with whom he previously worked in 1996. This collaboration resulted in a new album, released in Spring 2000, entitled For The Stars, which was produced by Costello and features the voice of Anne Sofie von Otter.
In the Spring of 2002 Costello released his first rock & roll album since joining the Island Def Jam/Universal family entitled When I Was Cruel. He has recently finished recording a new album scheduled for release in September 2003.
During his long career Costello has received several prestigious awards, including two Q Magazine Awards, two Ivor Novello Awards, the coveted Nordoff-Robbins Silver Clef Award and a Grammy for his collaboration with Burt Bacharach in 1998. In 2003 he was nominated for three Grammys for When I Was Cruel and was also inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on 10th March. In May 2003 Costello was awarded ASCAP's prestigious Founders Award.