With a career traversing over thirty years of studio recordings and tours, Tony Levin is an encyclopedia of knowledge concerning the upright bass, bass guitar, and Chapman Stick . He has worked with everyone from Chuck Mangionie to Robert Fripp, gaining him respect as the quintessential bass sideman for any projects across all genres. His skills were honed playing with some of the most influential names in music, and yet, when Levin speaks, his humility is the most poignantly striking characteristic.
Tony worked feverishly as a studio musician throughout the 70's and 80's and appeared on over 250 records. In his own words: "I fell into people's records." Tony has played on every Peter Gabriel solo album, and spent years recording, collaborating and touring with Herbie Mann ('74-78) and King Crimson ('81-'84, '94-'97). He has also played bass with Dream Theater's side-project Likquid Tension Experiment (LTE1 & LTE2), Tracy Chapman's Measures Of The Heart, Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms, John Lennon's Milk & Honey and Double Fantasy, Tom Waits' Rain Dogs, Pink Floyd's Momentary Lapse Of Reason, and Asia's Aura among a plethora of others.
The Tony Levin Band features a meeting ground of master-class musicians. On keyboards is Larry Fast of Synergy and Peter Gabriel's band. Synergy is Fast's brainchild, pioneering "new age music" in the 70's and 80's. Synergy's most memorable track was a cover of "Slaughter on 10th Avenue ." Larry Fast brings that eclectic new-age spin to Levin's band, including a mind-blowing rendition of Synergy's "Phobos." Guitarist Jessie Gress played with Todd Rundgren for 10 years, and is also the current guitarist with Peter Gabriel. Gress' years of playing alongside Levin in both projects has taught him to seamlessly interact with the rest of the band. Holding everything together is drummer Jerry Marotta. His vigorous approach to the drum set mixes rhythmic order with expressionistic buoyancy. He also jams frequently with Levin in their Woodstock, NY bar band, Uncle Funk.
"I am a bass player and nothing else." said Levin during his interview with Maximum Ink. "My goal is to enhance the music and musicians around me." His innovation and dedication to the 10 and 12-string Chapman Stick over the last 25 years places him among the most talented bass players in the world. "The first time I brought a Stick into the studio was for a Peter Gabriel session in 1976" says Levin. "The producer took one look at it, and told me to put it away." Since then, the instrument has taken him to new heights in musical experimentation. "I like to bring new ideas to the bass, and I try to incorporate them with the musicians I am working with."
It truly is in the Tony Levin Band 's live performances where they shine. "I think I play better when I'm on the road," says Levin. His incorporation of the electric upright and Funk Fingers (which are drumstick finger extensions that maximize the slap effect) are just a few of the techniques he utilizes. "We get something unique and special from each night, and if it's with Peter Gabriel at a large Auditorium, or with King Crimson, or The Tony Levin Band at a small, intimate club the feeling is tangibly shared."
Double Espresso is a 2-CD live album stinking of creativity, vibe and mastery. In addition to Synergy's Phobos, they focus their attentions towards their last album, Pieces Of The Sun, and throw in a version of Led Zeppelin's Black Dog, the Peter Gunn theme, and King Crimson 's Elephant Talk. It's obvious that the crowd interaction is a huge part of the show for the band. "We make sure to take pictures of the audience at every show and post them on the website," says Levin. "They put a live show on for us every time we play. We really love the interaction with our fans, [as] they are the ones supporting us."
The Double Espresso tour comes to an end on March 30. Tony will then resume touring in late April with Peter Gabriel.