Career

A talk with CMAC-bound King Crimson bassist Tony Levin

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King Crimson founder Robert Fripp reportedly dislikes the term “progressive rock,” though that band — like Yes or early Genesis — is often at the center of any discussion of the musical movement characterized by a classical and jazz-influenced compositional approach. 

But King Crimson has hardly stood still and remained in the musical and lyrical mode of its influential 1969 debut album “In the Court of the Crimson King.” Over the years, and through various incarnations of the band, they’ve evolved their sound with elements from musical streams ranging from folk to electronic to metal. “Progressive” perhaps fits more as an adjective describing an ethic of evolution than it does as a genre label. 

The common thread, suggests bassist and backup vocalist Tony Levin, who first came aboard in 1981: a commitment to growth, to challenging themselves and each other as musicians, to never playing quite the same show they played the year before, or the night before. 

The band King Crimson will appear at CMAC on Thursday, Aug. 26. Bassist and backup vocalist Tony Levin is second from right.

“The different incarnations are very different,” said Levin. “What’s the same for me, what comes to mind is the challenge of being in the band. It’s not a normal band. It’s a band that challenges the members individually. … The challenge is one that I embrace. King Crimson is a good band for that, and it keeps me on my toes. The excellence of the other players — each of them is kind of an icon on their own instrument. I’d better up my game to be in the room with these guys.”

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