Tony Levin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tony Levin
Levin playing a Chapman Stick with Stick Men in Italy, July 2010
Levin playing a Chapman Stick with Stick Men in Italy, July 2010
Background information
Birth nameAnthony Frederick Levin
Born (1946-06-06) June 6, 1946 (age 76)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • composer
  • Bass guitar
  • Chapman Stick
  • double bass
Years active1968–present
LabelsPapa Bear

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[1] 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.

A prolific session musician since the 1970s, Levin has played on over 500 albums. Some notable sessions include work with John Lennon,[2] 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. He 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,[3] 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, adding a distinctive percussive "slap"" sound used in 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.[4] In July 2020, Levin was ranked #42 on the "50 Greatest Bassists of All Time" list by Rolling Stone magazine.


Early life and education[edit]

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.[citation needed][5] Levin's first recording was in 1968, when he and Gadd played on Diana in the Autumn Wind, Gap Mangione's first solo album.[citation needed]


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 Mahavishnu Orchestra: "My original choice for bass was Tony Levin. But he told me, 'Oh man, I just took a gig with Gary Burton.'"[6]

From 1973 to 1975, Levin and Steve Gadd played in the band of veteran jazz flautist Herbie Mann. Two of Levin's early compositions (“Daffodil” and “Music Is a Game We Play”) were featured on the 1973 Mann album First Light.

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. 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 four studio albums as part of King Crimson: Discipline (1981), Beat (1982), Three of a Perfect Pair (1984) and THRAK (1995), all critically acclaimed.

In 1980, Levin participated in the sessions for John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy album.

In 1987, Levin played the bass and Chapman Stick parts on Pink Floyd's first album after the departure of Roger Waters, A Momentary Lapse of Reason.

In 1988 Bruford asked Levin to be an "unofficial fifth member" in the Yes related supergroup Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, which consisted of all the members from the classic Yes lineup except 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 to 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).


Levin in 1993

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 2006, Levin released Resonator, The first album to feature Levin as a lyricist and lead vocalist. 2007 saw the release of Stick Man, an album of pieces recorded on the Chapman Stick.

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, Terry Bozzio on drums, Levin on bass and Pat Mastelotto. All their shows were completely improvised with no written music.

Stick Men in Misinto, Italy, 2010

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.[7] The band released its first album Soup in 2010.[8] 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.[9] 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.


Levin performing live with Liquid Tension Experiment at NEARfest 2008

Many artists have cited Levin as an influence or have expressed their admiration for him, including Les Claypool of Primus,[10] Colin Hodgkinson, Nick Beggs,[11] Al Barrow of Magnum,[12] Dan Briggs of Between the Buried and Me,[13] Zach Cooper of Coheed and Cambria[14] and Jonathan Hischke of Dot Hacker and El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Levin met Andi Turco in 1995 when she was promoting Virgin Records in Atlanta. They married three years later.[16] Andi Turco-Levin ran for mayor of Kingston, New York, in 2011, and for Ulster County Legislature in 2019, both campaigns unsuccessful.[17] Turco-Levin is credited with backing vocals on the album Resonator (2006) and for photography on Levin Minnemann Rudess (2013).[18]

In 2003, Levin stated that he is a vegetarian.[19]


Levin has played on hundreds of recordings as a session musician or a guest artist.

Date Artists Title
1995 Tony Levin World Diary
2000 Waters of Eden
2002 Pieces of the Sun
2002 Double Espresso
2006 Resonator
2007 Stick Man
2019 The Bucket List
1974 Herbie Mann First Light as The Family of Mann
1976 Surprises
1974 [1976] Gagaku & Beyond
1977 Brazil: Once Again
1977 Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (Car)
1978 Peter Gabriel (Scratch)
1980 Peter Gabriel (Melt)
1982 Peter Gabriel (Security)
1983 Plays Live
1985 Birdy
1986 So
1992 Us
1994 Secret World Live
2000 OVO
2002 Up
2003 Growing Up Live
2005 Still Growing Up: Live & Unwrapped
2014 Back to Front: Live in London
2023 i/o
1981 King Crimson Discipline
1982 Beat
1982 The Noise: Frejus (VHS) / Neal and Jack and Me (DVD)
1984 Three of a Perfect Pair
1984 Three of a Perfect Pair: Live in Japan (VHS) / Neal and Jack and Me (DVD)
1998 Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal
1994 Vrooom
1995 THRAK
1995 B'Boom: Live in Argentina
1996 Thrakattak
1996 Live in Japan (VHS) / Déjà Vrooom (DVD) / The Collectable King Crimson Volume Five (Live in Japan 1995 – The Official Edition)
1999 Live in Mexico City
2001 Vrooom Vrooom
1999 The ProjeKcts
1999 The Deception of the Thrush: A Beginners' Guide to ProjeKcts
2012 Live in Argentina, 1994 (DVD-A)
2014–2017 The Elements of King Crimson
2015 Live at the Orpheum
2015 Live EP 2014 (Vinyl Cyclops Picture Disc)
2016 Live In Toronto
2016 Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind
2017 Heroes – Live In Europe (2016)
2017 Live In Chicago (2017 – Chicago Theater)
2018 Live in Vienna (2016 – Museumsquartier)
2018 Meltdown: Live in Mexico City (2017 – Teatro Metropólitan)
1989 Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe
2012 Live at the NEC
1991 Yes Union
1997 Gorn, Levin, Marotta From the Caves of the Iron Mountain
Bozzio Levin Stevens Black Light Syndrome
2000 Situation Dangerous
1998 ProjeKct One Live at the Jazz Café
1999 ProjeKct Four West Coast Live
2007 Liquid Trio Experiment Spontaneous Combustion
1998 Liquid Tension Experiment Liquid Tension Experiment
1999 Liquid Tension Experiment 2
2021 Liquid Tension Experiment 3
2009 Liquid Trio Experiment 2 When the Keyboard Breaks: Live in Chicago
Liquid Tension Experiment Liquid Tension Experiment Live 2008 – Limited Edition Boxset
Liquid Tension Experiment Live in NYC
Liquid Tension Experiment Live in LA
1998 Bruford Levin Upper Extremities Bruford Levin Upper Extremities
2000 B.L.U.E. Nights
2008 Steven Wilson Insurgentes (Kscope) on tracks 5 and 6
2011 Grace for Drowning (Kscope)
2009 Stick Men Stick Men [A special edition]
2010 Soup
2011 Absalom(EP)
Live In Montevideo 2011
Live In Buenos Aires 2011
2012 Open
2013 Deep
2014 Power Play
Unleashed: Live Improvs 2013
Supercollider: An Anthology 2010–2014
2015 Midori: Live In Tokyo (Featuring David Cross)
2016 Prog Noir
2017 Roppongi – Live In Tokyo 2017 (Featuring Mel Collins)
2011 Jakszyk, Fripp and Collins (with Levin and Harrison) A King Crimson ProjeKct A Scarcity of Miracles
2011 Tony Levin, David Torn, Alan White Levin Torn White
2013 Tony Levin, Marco Minnemann, Jordan Rudess Levin Minnemann Rudess
2015 Anthony Curtis and Tony Levin Book of the Key
2019 Keaggy, Marotta, and Levin The Bucket List


  1. ^ Ankeny, Jason (June 6, 1946). "Tony Levin". AllMusic. Retrieved July 16, 2011.
  2. ^ "Interview: Tony Levin (Stick Men, King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, John Lennon)". February 21, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2020.
  3. ^ "Tony Levin – Letters from the Road". Archived from the original on September 23, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  4. ^ Barrett, John (July 9, 2014). "The 20 Most Underrated Bass Guitarists :: Music :: Lists :: Paste". Archived from the original on October 14, 2011. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  5. ^ Jisi, Chris. "The Ampeg B-15: From Inception To Resurrection". Bass Player. Future Publishing Limited. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  6. ^ "John McLaughlin Discusses Mahavishnu Orchestra, Liberation Time, and More". JazzTimes. July 5, 2021. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
  7. ^ "Pat Mastelotto 2013 interview on Outsight Radio Hours". Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  8. ^ "Tonylevin.Com". Tonylevin.Com. Retrieved July 16, 2011.
  9. ^ "News". September 24, 2013. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  10. ^ West, David (May 13, 2015). "Les Claypool: 10 bassists that blew my mind". MusicRadar. p. 7. Archived from the original on June 29, 2017. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  11. ^ "Interview:Nick Beggs (John Paul Jones,Steve Hackett,Steven Wilson,Kajagoogoo)". April 11, 2012. Archived from the original on August 29, 2016. Retrieved March 3, 2017. 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?
  12. ^ Mailer, Dan (April 23, 2014). "Interview – Al Barrow (Magnum)". Archived from the original on September 2, 2017. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  13. ^ 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]. [...]
  14. ^ Cooper, Zachary (January 29, 2013). "Bassically speaking: Zachary Cooper". Bass Guitar. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  15. ^ Beller, Bryan (February 11, 2011). "Jonathan Hischke On Being Game". Bass Player. Archived from the original on February 23, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  16. ^ Live, D. G. M. (October 1, 2019). "Crimson in Atlanta". Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  17. ^ "And the winner is | Catskill Mountain News". Archived from the original on July 2, 2020. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  18. ^ "Andi Turco Levin | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  19. ^ Hill, Gary. "MSJ Chat Transcript Tony Levin from 2003". Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  20. ^ "Svjetlana Bukvich – EVOLUTION". Big Round Records. Retrieved January 9, 2022.

External links[edit]