Incognito: Tony Levin

Incognito is our weekly look at the neglected musical geniuses behind some our favorite live acts. Because these instruments don’t play themselves.

With a rock and roll resume nearly a mile long, Tony Levin has mastered the art of jumping around from act to act. Best known for his bass guitar and Chapman Stick skills, Levin has appeared on over 500 albums—including ones by Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Warren Zevon, and John Lennon on his final album, Double Fantasy—and has toured with the likes of Paul Simon, Carly Simon, James Taylor, and Peter Frampton.

Born in the Brookline neighborhood of Boston in 1946, Levin started playing double bass at age 10 and made his breakthrough when he joined Peter Gabriel‘s band in the late 1970s. He picked up and mastered the Chapman Stick while playing with Gabriel, and also developed “funk fingers“—mini drumsticks that are attached to bassists’ fingers for an extra funky sound—as a result of recording the song “Big Time” on Gabriel’s album So. In the 1980s, Levin joined an incarnation of the band King Crimson and stayed on with them until the mid-90s. In between he recorded and toured with Yes side-project Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, and later formed the Liquid Tension Experiment with members of Dream Theatre.

He’s been a member of countless bands, projects, and sessions, and has become synonymous with the legacy of the Chapman Stick—he even released an album in 2007 called Stick Man, comprised entirely of Chapman Stick pieces. He is also a pioneer of the digital road diary: Levin started posting his tour musings on the internet in 1996, before the word “blog” had even entered our lexicon. Most recently, Levin joined Allan Holdsworth, Terry Bozzio, and Pat Mastelotto on tour under the name HoBoLeMa, playing only improvised music sets.

Check out some of his masterful Chapman Stick abilities on this video below, as he performs the song “Elephant Talk” with The Tony Levin band on Mexico City’s late night TV show, “Animal Nocturno.”

One Comment

  1. pam45ela|Posted Oct 12, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Who knew! That’s why we love The Buzz sooo much!

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