TONY LEVIN "Resonator" Narada Jazz

Friday, April 14, 2006

TONY LEVIN"Resonator"Narada Jazz

BASSIST TONY Levin's new release features "What Would Jimi Do?" a Hendrix tribute in which guitarist Jesse Gress nearly kisses the sky, followed by a rhythmically stampeding progressive rock version of Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance," complete with a Ventures-like surf guitar interlude. The former tune laments the sorry state of rock radio, while the latter flamboyantly underscores one of the more appealing things about Levin: He loves to indulge his offbeat enthusiasms.

Not that this comes as much of a surprise. Best known for his work with King Crimson and Peter Gabriel, Levin has always gravitated toward the fringes of prog-rock and pop. But now he sounds more willing than ever to stretch out -- as a player, singer, composer and arranger.

Like guitarist and fellow traveler Adrian Belew, who has a fireworks cameo on "Throw the God a Bone," Levin has chops to spare and isn't shy about displaying them. Yet here his sense of whimsy is almost as evident as his low-end virtuosity on electric bass and Chapman Stick. Indeed, "Resonator" resonates with a playful spirit, thanks to a curious series of self-penned tunes, delightfully arranged vocal harmonies and the contrasts created by McCartneyesque piano ballads, orchestral weaves, funk romps and psychedelic flashbacks. Mind you, not all the tracks bear close scrutiny. At times, Levin's brand of wordplay is more silly than witty. But his eagerness to entertain listeners, not just dazzle them, is never in doubt.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Wednesday at Jaxx.

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