Anthony Frederick Levin (born June 6, 1946) is an American musician and composer, specializing in electric bass, Chapman Stick and upright bass. He also sings and plays synthesizer. Levin is best known for his work with King Crimson (since 1981) and Peter Gabriel (since 1977). He is also a member of Liquid Tension Experiment (1997–1999, 2008–2009, 2020–present), Bruford Levin Upper Extremities (1998–2000) and HoBoLeMa (2008–2010). He has led his own band, Stick Men, since 2010.
|Birth name||Anthony Frederick Levin|
|Born||June 6, 1946|
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
A prolific session musician since the 1970s, Levin has played on over 500 albums. Some notable sessions include work with John Lennon, Sarah McLachlan, Paula Cole, Stevie Nicks, Pink Floyd, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Joan Armatrading, Tom Waits, Buddy Rich, The Roches, Todd Rundgren, Seal, Warren Zevon, Bryan Ferry, Laurie Anderson, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Gibonni, and Jean-Pierre Ferland. Additionally, he has toured with artists including Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon (with whom he appeared in the 1980 film One-Trick Pony), Gary Burton, James Taylor, Herbie Mann, Judy Collins, Carly Simon, Peter Frampton, Tim Finn, Richie Sambora, Ivano Fossati, Claudio Baglioni and Lawrence Gowan.
Levin helped to popularize the Chapman Stick and the NS upright bass. He also created "funk fingers", modified drumsticks that attach to the fingers of the player in order to strike the bass strings. Funk fingers achieve a sound which can be compared to the "slap" style of bass playing; this adds the distinctive percussive sound regularly attributed to funk bass playing. In 2011, Levin ranked # 2 behind John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin in the "20 Most Underrated Bass Guitarists" in Paste magazine. In July 2020, Levin was ranked #42 on the "50 Greatest Bassists of All Time" list by Rolling Stone magazine.
Early life and educationEdit
Anthony Frederick Levin was born on June 6, 1946, in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the suburb of Brookline. He began playing double bass at 10 years old, primarily studying classical music. In high school, he learned tuba, soloing with the concert band, and also started a barbershop quartet.
After high school, he attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and played in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Also at Eastman, he studied with drummer Steve Gadd. He traded in his Ampeg electric upright "Baby Bass" for a Fender Precision Bass; in the early days his first bass amplifier was an Ampeg Portaflex B-15.
In 1968, Gap Mangione released his first solo album, Diana in the Autumn Wind, featuring Levin and drummer Steve Gadd in their first recordings, and new compositions and arrangements by Chuck Mangione, who conducted as well.
In 1970, Levin moved to New York City, joining a band called Aha, the Attack of the Green Slime Beast, with Don Preston of The Mothers of Invention. Soon after, he began working as a session musician, and through the 1970s he played bass on many albums, including Buddy Rich's big band jazz album, The Roar of '74, and Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years (1975).
In 1971, John McLaughlin asked Levin to join his new project, the Mahavishu Orchestra: "My original choice for bass was Tony Levin. But he told me, 'Oh man, I just took a gig with Gary Burton.'"
In 1976, Levin helped create the lush textures on Andy Pratt's Resolution album, that featured numerous notable musicians including Arif Mardin, Andy Newmark, Hugh McDonald, Luther Vandross and Levin's frequent rhythm section partner Steve Gadd. Allmusic.com and Rolling Stone magazine rated this album as one of the best singer/songwriter albums of the 1970s.
In 1977, Levin joined Peter Gabriel's band. He had met Gabriel through producer Bob Ezrin with whom Levin had recorded Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare and Lou Reed's Berlin. Levin has been Gabriel's bass player of choice ever since. On Peter's first solo album, Levin played tuba as well, and directed and sang with a barbershop quartet on "Excuse Me".
With the exception of John Giblin's fretless bass playing on Peter Gabriel III, and some additional work by Larry Klein on "In Your Eyes" & "Mercy Street", and Bill Laswell on "This is the Picture" (all three tracks from So), Levin has been the bassist on all of Gabriel's studio sessions and on his many tours around the world.
In his years with Gabriel, Levin developed two unique aspects of his playing: further advancement on the Chapman Stick, which he would later utilize heavily in King Crimson, and the development of funk fingers. First used on the song "Big Time", from Gabriel's 1986 So album, funk fingers are chopped off drumsticks used to hammer on the bass strings. Levin credits Gabriel with the concept and his tech at the time (Andy Moore) with actually making them workable.
In 1978, Levin moved to Woodstock, New York, to join the band L'Image, which included his old friend Steve Gadd as well as Mike Mainieri and Warren Bernhardt. The band broke up after a year, though Levin still decided to stay in the area: he currently resides in Kingston, New York. This Ill-fated group would reunite much later in Levin's career. While recording Peter Gabriel's first album, Levin became acquainted with guitarist Robert Fripp, and in 1978 played on Fripp's solo album, Exposure. This would lead Levin to become a member of the 1981-1984 incarnation of King Crimson, along with Fripp, guitarist/vocalist Adrian Belew and drummer Bill Bruford. Levin recorded three studio albums as part of King Crimson: Discipline (1981), Beat (1982) and Three of a Perfect Pair (1984), all critically acclaimed.
In 1988 Bruford asked Levin to be an "unofficial fifth member" in the Yes related supergroup Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, which consisted of members from the classic Yes lineup (sans bassist Chris Squire), but he only functioned as a session player on ABWH's eponymous album. Due to a severe virus, he was unable to play on some of the final dates of the accompanying tour, being replaced by Jeff Berlin. Levin also plays on the Yes album Union from 1991.
In 1984 Levin released Road Photos, a collection of black and white photos taken during his travels with Crimson, Gabriel, Simon, and others. Another book of photos focusing on King Crimson's travels in the 1980s, The Crimson Chronicles volume 1, was released in 2004. There has been no word yet on the release of volume 2, which will cover the 1990s and possibly 2000s versions of the band. Levin has also written a book of career anecdotes and road stories called Beyond the Bass Clef.
Levin was part of King Crimson again from 1994-1997 as part of the "Double Trio" line-up of the band which consisted of Levin, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Trey Gunn, Pat Mastelotto, and Bill Bruford. Fripp then reformed King Crimson as a quartet, without Levin and Bruford. Levin also took part in two of the post-breakup experimental sub-groups, ProjeKct One (1997) and ProjeKct Four (1998). Levin played bass on "Watcher of the Skies" from Steve Hackett's Genesis Revisited album (1996). He was very busy in the late 1990s with his own groups Bruford Levin Upper Extremities, Bozzio Levin Stevens and Liquid Tension Experiment. In 2008, Levin joined King Crimson's 40th Anniversary Tour, in a lineup including Fripp, Belew, and drummers Mastelotto and Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree).
In 1998, Levin and Bruford formed Bruford Levin Upper Extremities with trumpeter Chris Botti and guitarist David Torn; they released one studio album in 1998 and a live double album in 2000. Torn, Levin, and Bruford had worked with trumpeter Mark Isham, for Torn's album Cloud About Mercury. Former Japan bassist Mick Karn replaced Levin for Isham's tour at the time. Levin also continued recording albums with his own band, consisting of drummer/saxophonist/vocalist Jerry Marotta, guitarist Jesse Gress, synthesizer programmer/player Larry Fast, and Levin's brother, keyboardist Pete Levin. He also regularly played (and occasionally recorded) with the California Guitar Trio when their schedules permitted.
In 1997, Levin teamed up with Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci, members of Dream Theater, as well as future Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess, for a project called Liquid Tension Experiment. The combo released two albums, Liquid Tension Experiment and Liquid Tension Experiment 2 in 1998 and 1999 respectively, as well as playing short tours in 1998 and 2008. There have also been two CDs of material released under the name "Liquid Trio Experiment"; the first composed of studio jams from the LTE2 sessions without Petrucci (Spontaneous Combustion), released for the band's tenth anniversary, and a live recording from a 2008 Chicago show where Rudess's equipment failed and the other three covered for it with a nearly hour-long improvisation (When the Keyboard Breaks). During the COVID-19 global pandemic, the group reconvened and recorded a new album for release in April 2021 call LTE3.
At the end of 2003 Trey Gunn left King Crimson and Levin rejoined as the bassist, although the band was only active for a handful of rehearsals at that time and the aforementioned 40th Anniversary tour in the summer of 2008.
In 2009 Levin reunited with his band from 1978, L'Image, featuring Mike Mainieri, Warren Bernhardt, David Spinozza, and Steve Gadd. The group performed at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, toured Japan, and released the album L'Image 2.0. In 2010 Levin toured with HoBoLeMa, a group consisting of Allan Holdsworth on guitar, Levin on bass, and Pat Mastelotto and Terry Bozzio on drums. All their shows were completely improvised with no written music.
Following on from the Stick Man album, Levin joined up with fellow player Michael Bernier and King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto to form the group Stick Men. The band released its first album Soup in 2010. Bernier left the group shortly after the release of Soup and was replaced by touch guitarist Markus Reuter in 2010. This lineup has continued with a busy touring and recording schedule, releasing the EP Absalom in 2011 and the full albums Open (June 2012), and Deep (Sept 2012). [needs update]
Levin's brother, Pete Levin, is a New York keyboardist and writer who is known for his work with Gil Evans. In the 1970s, Tony and Pete collaborated with Steve Gadd in the comedy band The Clams. Levin has stated that some of the Clams' material may eventually be released. Levin also played on Jean-Pierre Ferland's Jaune album, which included hits "Le petit roi" and "Le chat du café des artistes".
On September 24, 2013, Levin was officially announced as a member of the 8th incarnation of King Crimson, alongside band founder Robert Fripp, guitarist Jakko Jakszyk, the returning Mel Collins on saxophone, and drummers Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison and new member Bill Rieflin. The group toured the United States in the autumn of 2014 and has continued to tour throughout the world since, including 2019 when King Crimson celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Many artists have cited Levin as an influence or have expressed their admiration for him, including Les Claypool of Primus, Colin Hodgkinson, Nick Beggs, Al Barrow of Magnum, Dan Briggs of Between the Buried and Me, Zach Cooper of Coheed and Cambria and Jonathan Hischke of Dot Hacker and El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez.
Levin met Andi Turco in 1995 when she was promoting Virgin Records in Atlanta. They married three years later. Andi Turco-Levin ran for mayor of Kingston, New York, in 2011, and for Ulster County Legislature in 2019, both campaigns unsuccessful. Turco-Levin is credited with backing vocals on the album Resonator (2006) and for photography on Levin Minnemann Rudess (2013).
Levin has played on hundreds of recordings as a session musician or a guest artist.
- Jaune (1970) - Jean-Pierre Ferland
- Carly Simon (1971) - Carly Simon
- Diana in the Autumn Wind (1972) - Gap Mangione (arrangements by Chuck Mangione)
- Alive! (1972) - Chuck Mangione Quartet
- Don McLean (1972) - Don McLean
- Berlin (1973) - Lou Reed
- Over the Rainbow (1973) - Livingston Taylor
- The Roar of '74 (1973) - Buddy Rich
- Playin' Favorites (1973) - Don McLean
- Simba (Groove Merchant, 1974) – O'Donel Levy
- Still Crazy After All These Years (1975) - Paul Simon
- Welcome To My Nightmare (1975) - Alice Cooper
- Judith (1975) - Judy Collins
- Second Childhood (1976) - Phoebe Snow
- Goes To Hell (1976) - Alice Cooper
- Main Squeeze (1976) - Chuck Mangione
- Lace & Whiskey (1977) - Alice Cooper
- Never Letting Go (1977) - Phoebe Snow
- Singin'... (1977) - Melissa Manchester
- Ringo the 4th (1977) - Ringo Starr
- Watermark (1977) - Art Garfunkel
- Nested (1978) - Laura Nyro
- Blue Montreux (1978) - Arista All-Stars (Brecker Bros, Larry Coryell, etc.)
- Boys in the Trees (1978) - Carly Simon
- The Roches (1979) - The Roches
- Spy (1979) - Carly Simon
- Double Fantasy (1980) - John Lennon, Yoko Ono
- Me Myself I (1980) – Joan Armatrading
- Come Upstairs (1980) - Carly Simon
- Walk Under Ladders (1981) – Joan Armatrading
- Scissors Cut (1981) - Art Garfunkel
- Season of Glass (1981) - Yoko Ono
- It's Alright (I See Rainbows) (1982) - Yoko Ono
- Keep On Doing (1982) - The Roches
- Times of Our Lives (1982) - Judy Collins
- The Key (1983) – Joan Armatrading
- Hello Big Man (1983) - Carly Simon
- Milk and Honey (1984) - John Lennon, Yoko Ono
- Boys and Girls (1985) - Bryan Ferry
- Starpeace (1985) - Yoko Ono
- Strange Animal (1985) - Lawrence Gowan
- That's Why I'm Here (1985) - James Taylor
- Downtown (1985) - Marshall Crenshaw
- Rain Dogs (1985) - Tom Waits
- Cloud About Mercury (ECM, 1986) – David Torn
- The Big Picture (1986) - Michael W. Smith
- Premonition (1986) - Peter Frampton
- Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) – Pink Floyd
- Robbie Robertson (1987) – Robbie Robertson
- Great Dirty World (1987) - Lawrence Gowan
- Coming Around Again (1987) - Carly Simon
- Cher (1987) - Cher
- Sentimental Hygiene (1987) - Warren Zevon
- Safety in Numbers (1987) - David Van Tieghem
- Julia Fordham (1988) - Julia Fordham
- Tommy Page (1988) - Tommy Page
- Hide Your Heart (1988) - Bonnie Tyler
- Amnesia (1988) - Richard Thompson
- The Other Side of the Mirror (1989) - Stevie Nicks
- Maria McKee (1989) - Maria McKee
- Tim Finn (1989) - Tim Finn
- N.Y.C. (1989) - Steps Ahead
- Lost Brotherhood (1990) - Lawrence Gowan
- World Gone Strange (1991) – Andy Summers
- Stranger in This Town (1991) – Richie Sambora
- Discipline (1991) - Desmond Child
- New Moon Shine (1991) - James Taylor
- Matters of the Heart (1992) - Tracy Chapman
- Arkansas Traveler (1992) - Michelle Shocked
- Spin 1ne 2wo (1993) – Spin 1ne 2wo
- Flyer (1994) - Nanci Griffith
- Swamp Ophelia (1994) - Indigo Girls
- What's Inside (1995) - Joan Armatrading
- Dream Sequence (Psi, 1995-2003 ) - Kenny Wheeler
- This Fire (1996) - Paula Cole
- Gravity (1996) - Jesse Cook
- The Last Dance of Mr. X (1997) – Andy Summers
- The Cappuccino Songs (1998) - Tanita Tikaram
- By 7:30 (1999) - Vonda Shepard
- Amen (1999) - Paula Cole
- Snowfall on the Sahara (1999) - Natalie Cole
- My Ride's Here (2002) - Warren Zevon
- Chinatown (2002) - Vonda Shepard
- Heathen (2002) - David Bowie
- Afterglow (2003) - Sarah McLachlan
- Courage (2007) - Paula Cole
- L'Image 2.0 (2009) – L'Image
- Ithaca (2010) - Paula Cole
- The Next Day (2013) - David Bowie
- Raven (2013) - Paula Cole
- Music From An Expanded Universe (2014) - Leon Alvarado
- The Desired Effect (2015) - Brandon Flowers
- This Bright Red Feeling (2016) - Paula Cole
- The Natural Edge (1989) Pop Out World - David Wilcox
- Ballad of a Bad Girl (album) (2021) - Kate McDonnell
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Tony is one of the greatest musicians ever born. I am only glad that I was able to discover him when I did as he taught me so much about music. Yes I am a fan of Tony Levin. Isn’t everyone?
- De Pasquale, Luca; Avino, Manuela (2015). "Into the Magnum garden. Interview with AL BARROW". bassmyfever.weebly.com. Archived from the original on September 2, 2017. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
Q: Who are the bassists who have mostly influenced you while you were about to start your career as musician? [...]
Al Barrow: [...] Tony Levin [...] I think right now one of my favourite players would be Tony Levin. he has a great way of making space work as well, as well as filling the tune with a huge bass tone. He plays many styles and seems to be able to give the song just what is required. [...]
- Mailer, Dan (April 23, 2014). "Interview - Al Barrow (Magnum)". www.metal-temple.com. Archived from the original on September 2, 2017. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
- Hartmann, Graham (March 16, 2013). "Between the Buried and Me Bassist Dan Briggs Talks 'The Parallax II,' Composing Music + More". Loudwire. Radio City Music Hall, New York City (published May 1, 2013). Archived from the original on May 3, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
[...] For me, that method of finding a groove within a really dense riff comes from Tony Levin (King Crimson), who is one of my all-time favorite bassists. He was so good at, “Where is this groove coming from.” He was, first and foremost, just a really groove-y bass player and that’s something I’ve always tried to take [for myself]. [...]
- Cooper, Zachary (January 29, 2013). "Bassically speaking: Zachary Cooper". Bass Guitar. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
- Beller, Bryan (February 11, 2011). "Jonathan Hischke On Being Game". Bass Player. Archived from the original on February 23, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
- Live, D. G. M. (October 1, 2019). "Crimson in Atlanta". Dgmlive.com. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
- [dead link]
- "Andi Turco Levin | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
- Hill, Gary. "MSJ Chat Transcript Tony Levin from 2003". www.musicstreetjournal.com. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
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