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05 avril 2006

Bassist's touch resonates on new CD

Shaped by tongue and lips as much as by the years he has performed with the likes of Peter Gabriel and John Lennon, a tender song rises from the vocal chords of Kingston resident and bass player Tony Levin — a tender song about an ape.

The vocal inflections of "Fragile As A Song" recall the way Randy Newman wraps his personality around every syllable he sings. This song also recalls a trip Levin took to the University of Georgia, where he joined Gabriel in a musical session with a Bonobos ape named Panbanisha that used advanced communication skills to play the keyboard.

"I knew something very unusual was afoot when we walked into the facility,"
Levin said. "Peter said, 'Panbanisha, this is Tony, he's going to play bass with us today.' "

Worked with Bowie, Floyd

"Fragile As A Song"
is one tune on the new Tony Levin Band CD "Resonator," which is released today. The man who has played bass with King Crimson, David Bowie and Pink Floyd will celebrate his latest project Wednesday evening with a "playback" party at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, where the CD will be played and sold and band members will be on hand to chat with fans and sign CDs.

"My solo career is a career, but it's not my only career,"
said Levin, whose past work earned him a Grammy nomination. "Most of what I do is be a backup bass player to other people and I love doing that. That gives me the freedom in my solo career, I can do what I want."

The songs on "Resonator" shift from flat-out funk to Crimson-esque chord changes and Beatles-like ballads with lyrics that Gabriel might be jealous of. Joining Levin in the studio and on the road for upcoming shows are his brother Pete on keyboards, Jesse Gress on guitar, Larry Fast on synthesizer and Jerry Marotta on drums. Pete Levin has played with Miles Davis; Gress has played with Todd Rundgren; and Marotta and Fast both played with Levin in Gabriel's band.

"He's like the quintessential person you'd want to be working with and kind of look up to and want to be there to influence you to some degree in many ways,"
Marotta said of his friend of many decades. "He's a real thinker."

represents Levin's first stab at writing lyrics and singing. He is not the kind of songwriter to sit down and write, but opts instead for keeping journals while on tour.

"Science and religion — those for years have been inspiring me to express my ideas about conflicting directions this amazing century is taking in," he said. "I process my ideas through my musical sense and come out with song lyrics that are hopefully unique to me."

Tommy Keegan, who has hosted different bands that included Levin at Keegan Ales brewery in Kingston, said, "as a person, he is so reserved ... soft spoken and just an all-around great guy." Keegan Ales is sponsoring Wednesday's event.

That soft-spoken guy, it seems, is equally at home playing hockey arenas or the local brewery.

"I understand when I'm performing in Madison Square Garden with Peter or in Keegan Ales, I'm knowing that years later, a lot of us in the room will remember being part of that experience," he said. "I'm very tuned into that."

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