With Band of Brothers, celebrated rock bassist Tony Levin returns to his jazz roots Paul Conley Thursday, January 11, 2024 | Sacramento, CA Listen / Update RequiredTo play audio, update browser or Flash plugin. Tony Levin.Avraham Bank / Courtesy of the artist Bassist Tony Levin has worked with some of the biggest names in music, such as John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Dire Straits, Carly Simon and Judy Collins. He’s a long-time member of the band King Crimson and his association with rocker Peter Gabriel dates back more than 40 years. When he’s not performing arena shows with rock royalty, Levin is often on tour with his brother Pete Levin, playing a different kind of music in much smaller venues. This month the Levins play a series of one-nighters from Southern California to Seattle with a jazz quartet they call Band of Brothers, including another pair of high profile siblings, Joe and Pat LaBarbera. It’s quite a departure from Levin’s last tour. That was in the fall with Peter Gabriel, who hadn’t been on the road for nearly a decade. Levin said it was one of the most pleasurable tours he’s ever done. “Because of the quality of the music, the meaning of the music and the fact that Peter has the gumption to do an arena tour with mostly new music,” Levin explained. “We did some of the hits, some of the old hits that everybody wants, but he doesn’t do things the way other rock icons do and he challenged the audience with the idea of listening to some new music which they had never heard. It hadn’t even been released then. It has now. In December the album was released.” Logistically speaking, a North American tour with Gabriel varies wildly from a West coast run with brother Pete. But Levin said they do have one thing in common. “If the music is great, then it’s a great tour,” he said. “If I’m staying in very nice hotels with a private jet playing for 12,000 people a night, hey that’s great. If I’m driving the van and loading the gear and staying in the best hotel I could find for around a hundred dollars a room a night, it’s equally good!” Elder brother Pete has played keyboards with a dizzying list of artists that span the worlds jazz, pop and rock. His jazz credentials alone include such major figures as Gil Evans, Charles Mingus, Jimmy Giuffre, Wayne Shorter, Carla Bley, Jaco Pastorius and John Scofield. Suffice it to say, Tony and Pete Levin have had long and productive individual careers. And yet, they rarely performed together. That is until about a decade ago when they had an idea. “After all these years we said hey let’s form a band,” recalls Tony Levin. “And we began by thinking let’s do the music we grew up with which was the kind of cool jazz of the fifties.” And so the Levin Brother band was born. They’ve recorded multiple CDs with special guests and have embarked on a series of tours. Joining them on the current one are jazz heavyweights Pat and Joe LaBarbera “We’re friends and we know each other musically and we’ve played together in different combinations but the four of us had not played together until this very week. And so it’s kind of historic to us,” Levin said. It’s historic for audiences too, when you consider the jazz credentials of the LaBarbera brothers. Drummer Joe was in the last trio led by the hugely influential pianist Bill Evans and saxophonist Pat played in the bands of John Coltrane’s iconic drummer Elvin Jones and the legendary Buddy Rich. In fact, it was Pat who recommended Tony Levin, then fresh out of music school in Rochester New York, to play bass for the famously temperamental Rich. “I left Rochester and went on the road to join Buddy Rich,” Levin recounted. “And then I found that Buddy didn’t want me in the band, he had decided to keep the other bass player. And having nothing else to do I went to New York. And if you fast forward a few years I became quite a successful studio player in New York. And ironically, in the height of irony, the Buddy Rich Band came to New York to record an album and needed a bass player and I ended up being the bass player on that. So I did end up, not in the band, but recording with Buddy.” Who knows: if Tony Levin did join the Rich band, he might not have become the studio bassist hired to play on Peter Gabriel’s first album, which brings us back to the tale of two tours. Levin said this one is a lot of work but very rewarding. “I’m driving the van, I’m tuning my bass and loading it out after the show. And all of those things were done for me on Peter’s tour. But it’s great fun being together with your brother and there’s all these hours of traveling and making music together. Very special to us.” Band of Brothers — the Levins and the LaBarberas — performs Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024 at the Haggin Museum in Stockton.