Two names…. TONY LEVIN!!!!
Tony has been a long-time friend and endorser of Ampeg going back as far as I can remember. Whether he’s on a huge stadium tour with Peter Gabriel or touring the world with his own highly acclaimed Stick Men, Tony has relied on Ampeg to deliver the goods night after night. Not to mention he’s probably one of the coolest, and most gracious people one could ever meet. Let’s face it…. Tony is an icon in the
world of bass.
On March 5th, 2013, Tony was gracious enough to help us out with a request from Berklee College of Music’s Bass Department Chair, Steve Bailey. Steve is of course another friend of ours and being that I’m personally located just north of Boston, I get to pop in on Steve from time to time to say hello and check out Berklee. During a recent visit back in November while another Ampeg friend and endorser , Hutch Hutchinson was doing a clinic for Kala Basses, Steve had asked if we (Ampeg) would be able to sponsor something like this as it turned out to be such a great event.
One thing lead to another, dates and logistics were passed between all of us and before you knew it, we had a clinic scheduled.
Now, Tony will be the first to tell you that he’s not the type of “clinician” that’s going to sit in front of a bunch of bass players and play a gazillion notes using techniques only a skilled brain surgeon would be comfortable with. But, with Tony, he doesn’t have to do that! Honestly, Tony could sit and groove on an open E string for 20 minutes and we’d all be open-jawed and silent! In fact, I found it kind of funny when I looked out into the audience and saw John Patitucci, Victor Bailey, Bruce Gertz, Steve Bailey, as well as most of the Berklee bass faculty and students watching with content! Personally, I could sit and listen to him play Chapman Stick most of the day and would be content with just that.
Which is actually what he did, he just opened up playing a short piece on Chapman Stick and then opened the floor for discussions and questions. Of course this led to numerous questions and discussions about his work with John Lennon, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and King Crimson which then led to Tony demonstrating some of his most iconic bass lines as well as his now famous “Funk Fingers” where he attaches two modified drum sticks to the ends of his two right-hand plucking fingers.
After two full hours of listening to Tony, the questions were still coming in and he was still going. He never sat down once throughout the entire clinic. Finally, (basically because of scheduling with the room), we had to close out the clinic. But I would say that within those two hours, we had at least a couple of hundred students and faculty come in and hang out for their free time. We also had the opportunity to give away an Ampeg BA-110 bass combo to one lucky student was able to answer the following bass-related question: When Will Lee moved to NYC to fill the bass chair for the band “Dreams” which iconic bass player was he replacing?
Later that month, Tony and his group The Stick Men were touring through New England so I had the opportunity to go see Tony and his group in a very small and intimate venue called Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry NH. His “group” consists of Tony on Chapman Stick, Pat Mastelotto on drums, percussion and just about every form of looper and sequencer you can imagine, and Markus Reuter on “touch guitar”. I gotta tell you, I’ve always loved progressive rock stuff but I never really immersed myself into it. After seeing Stick Men live in such an intimate and awesome sounding room, I’ve been searching the internet for a used Chapman Stick. If you have the rare opportunity to go see Stick Men, go and see them! Even if you’re not a big “prog-rock” fan, you will have a complete appreciation for the musicianship and creativity these guys show. If not for anything, to witness the technical aspects of how three guys can make so much music is amazing in itself!
Now… anyone have a spare Chapman Stick I can borrow???