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TONY LEVIN: Waters of Eden (CD on Narada Records)

On this 54 minute CD, Levin combines elements of classical and world music to produce an extremely fluid form of instrumental modern jazz. There are touches of pop, a dash of rock, and a fairly liberal application of soothing funk going on too.

The melodies are sultry, and rich with wide appeal, calling to the intellectual lobe as well as the emotional hemisphere. Levin proves his compositional abilities with brilliant riffs and enticing tempos. Pieces begin slow and romantic, building slowly to quite epic proportions, while never overstepping into explosive.

The instrumentation is hardly restricted to bass, with full presence by slick guitar, powerful and intricate drums, swelling keyboards and torchsong piano, dramatic horns, and ethereal woodwinds. Featuring guest musicians include: David Sancious, Larry Fast, Jerry Marotta, David Torn, the California Guitar Trio, and Warren Bernhardt.

All of these instruments shine with indomitable professionalism, but it is the bass which rules here. Levin's talent pulls mournful angst from his instrument as easily as he belts out primal rhythms. Whether they are slithering in a purist jazz mode or popping with rapid expression, his basslines dig past your surface psyche, stimulating deeply instinctual rhythmic synapses.

This release is a milestone example of a session musician entering his own time in the spotlight.

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BRUFORD LEVIN UPPER EXTREMITIES: Blue Nights (double CD on Papa Bear Records)

This double CD sports a wide selection of 1998 concert performances by Levin with Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson) on drums, modern jazz guitarist David Torn, and Chris Botti on trumpet. For 107 minutes, the music will immerse you in blue nights (comfortably cool and blisteringly hot), delivering doses of urban jazz and progressive rock.

The performances are slick and innovative, pushing each instrument far beyond their designed capabilities.

Levin's bass and stick growl and purr out a liquid structure for the entertaining melodies, rumbling with deep snarls and thick vibrations. Bruford's drumming is excellent, versatile and hyperswift without being frantic. Torn's guitar squeals and moans, tortured with controlled feedback and twisted sustains, then it slips into a relaxed chord progression. Botti's trumpet is mournful without tears, producing a more celebratory tone.

The interplay—nay, literal fusion—of these instruments is a wondrous thing to behold. This music is no stranger to complex structure. This is one of the best progressive jazz releases to come along in years.

The first disc oozes Mile Davis sensibilities, filtering the funk through a field of cerebral moods to produce a curious sound that is wholly contemporary. Meanwhile, the second disc is saturated with a hidden King Crimson edge which adds zealous voltage to the already dense melodies.

This live album features a bonus track: a studio remix by Splattercell, utilizing elements from various concerts to generate a synthetic reconstruction of particular interest. The riffs are neat and interesting, while the applied effects are curious and even more interesting as they commence accreting into a complex techno rhythm.

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BOZZIO/LEVIN/STEVENS: Black Light Syndrome (CD on Magna Carta Records)

What do you get when you put monster bassist Tony Levin together with Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa's drummer for many years, and founding member of the innovative pop group Missing Persons) and Steve Stevens (Billy Idol's guitarist during the Eighties, who has also worked with Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, and Ric Ocasek, and won a Grammy for his soundtrack for the "Top Gun" movie)…?

You get 67 minutes of intense power rock of a significantly intellectual nature. You'll find the guitar to be quite raging, the bass-lines thick and nimble, the drumming to be hyperactive genius. You'll be unable to deny the hypnotic yet energized delivery of this incredible instrumental music. You'll groove with the slick and involved melodies, finding yourself dazzled anew with each of the eight tracks.

Stevens' blinding interstellar guitar is so versatile, belting out tasty riffs with supersonic fingers. Levin's bass can be guttural, or it can come across as smooth as molten chocolate topping. Bozzio's percussives are powerful, driving, and emotive.

This is one of the flashiest power rock releases to come along in years, giving you access to tuneage that will continue to impress and delight after many listens. This kind of excellence is too awesome to be diminished by repetitive listenings.

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BOZZIO/LEVIN/STEVENS: Situation Dangerous (CD on Magna Carta Records)

Fortunately for ears everywhere, Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin, and Steve Stevens did it again. That's right: more power rock to ignite the sky, more gripping melodies to dazzle your senses.

Stevens' guitars are versatile: alive with hard sustain, echo reverb, power chord, jazz fusion, even flamenco. Bozzio's percussion is similarly lush and far-reaching, from rock-out to ethnic sensualities. Levin's bass rumbles like a gigantic oily cloud oozing through the riffs with an undeniable undercurrent of sinuous appeal.

The tuneage of this 48 minute CD is excellently satisfying both for its powerful qualities and its complex compositional sense. Music for the mind as well as the feet. For make no mistake: this music was made to bring happiness to nervous feet looking for blissful melodies to motivate the rest of the body.

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LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT: Liquid Tension Experiment (CD on Magna Carta Records)

Liquid Tension Experiment is a collaboration project by Tony Levin, John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy (both from Dream Theater), and Jordan Rudess.

Start hard, in-your-face and thrashing with such unrestrained guitars and urgent drumming that the music literally knocks the breath right out of your lungs. This is progressive power rock of the most intense kind, rich with melodic power and relentless tempo.

Petrucci's guitars cry in shrill tones, fast-fingered and passionately insistent.

Portnoy's percussives are a syncopation for the sonic fury, pummeling the songs along to even more frantic energy levels.

Levin's bass rumbles like a fluid lizard through the riot of sound, adding a smolder to the blaze.

Rudess' keyboards flow with a fanciful gaiety, injecting a mystical drama to the music's volcanic vehemence.

Included in the CD's 74 minutes is a 28 minute epic piece, "Three Minute Warning", which aptly titled. This track is a live-in-studio spontaneous improvisation of fiery rhythms and intense melodics, guaranteed to alter your pulse-rate.

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LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT: Liquid Tension Experiment 2 (CD on Magna Carta Records)

This second LTE release reunites Levin, Petrucci, Portnoy, and Rudess for another 74 minutes of incredible prog rock.

This time the fusion of these instruments is even more integral, heightened by the musicians impassioned mastery. The music blaze with equal brilliance, featuring stupendous guitar pyrotechnics, powerful percussion, sinuous bass-lines, and hyper keyboards. Driving melodies surge with relentless fury, unwilling to back off or relinquish command of your attention.

What separates this music from other power rock is LTE's compositional style, producing wonderfully intricate riffs and enticing breaks, fused into tuneage that is inexhaustibly charged. The music seethes with energy, much more than it can contain—so this auxiliary energy ends up taking refuge in the listener.

It's your choice what you do with this sonic gift.

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