Prog bassist Tony Levin and jazz pianist Pete Levin team up as the Levin Brothers | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Prog bassist Tony Levin and jazz pianist Pete Levin team up as the Levin Brothers

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Many know the lore of prog bass lord Tony Levin, legendary for his active fretwork with King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, and other artsy UK acts. Lately I’ve been paying more attention to his diverse but less famous early session work, which includes spots on key LPs by Carly Simon, Judy Collins, Lou Reed (he’s on the dark, minimal Berlin), and doomed singer-songwriter Tim Hardin—all of which required a very different tone than the high-tech Chapman Stick bass that’s most associated with Levin. The man clearly has range, and he illustrates it again in his latest project, the Levin Brothers—a jazz band he and his brother, keyboardist Pete Levin, formed in 2014. It’s tempting to file Pete in the “lesser known and less talented brother” category, alongside Chris Jagger and Mike McCartney, but he’s had an illustrious career of his own, gigging with the likes of Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Dave Brubeck, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Mingus, Jaco Pastorius, and Wayne Shorter. Raised in the Boston suburbs, the brothers were trained in classical music (initially Pete played French horn and Tony double bass) and developed a taste for 50s jazz. As the Levin Brothers, a band they call a “return home,” they’ve recorded a self-titled debut album in 2014 and the live record Special Delivery in 2017. The lineup on the first LP also features drummer Jeff Siegel (sideman to Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, and Mose Allison), saxophonist Erik Lawrence (who’s played with Levon Helm, Buddy Miles, Chico Hamilton, and the Spin Doctors), and guest guitarist David Spinozza (who collaborated with every Beatle but George in the 70s and worked in the Saturday Night Live band from 1980 till ’82). In the studio and onstage, the extremely tight combo bop through their own compositions and take on pieces by soundtrack god Ennio Morricone, tango master Astor Piazzolla, and perhaps inevitably King Crimson (“Matte Kudasai”). The musical quirks associated with both Levin brothers remain in full effect, though: while they maintain a mostly traditional jazz sound and unfold their solos tastefully, they filter everything through complex time signatures, and Tony’s deft playing and tone veer close to fusion territory. For this tour, the Levin Brothers are a quartet, with Siegel and guitarist Jeff Ciampa.   v

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