King Crimson’s Tony Levin Praises The ‘Apotheosis’ In A Joni Mitchell Album
Progressive rock bassist Tony Levin of King Crimson recently spoke to Guitar World about a particular Joni Mitchell album that had a significant influence on his sound. He credited the work of Mitchell in shaping the way he approached the instrument.
Tony Levin revealed that it was Joni Mitchell’s 1976 album ‘Hejira’ that played a crucial role in helping him develop his signature sound. The album’s bass work, in particular, served as a source of inspiration for the musician. ‘Hejira’ featured three different bassists: Max Bennett played on two songs, Jaco Pastorius on four songs, and Chuck Domanico on one song. Each bassist brought their own style and expertise to the album, adding depth and complexity to Mitchell’s music.
The bassist expressed his admiration for the bass playing of Jaco Pastorius, who contributed to the songs ‘Coyote,’ ‘Hejira,’ ‘Black Crow,’ and ‘Refuge of the Roads’ on the album. Pastorius played the fretless bass, which Levin found particularly appealing. According to him, the bass playing on ‘Hejira’ is ‘beautifully melodic’ and never interferes with Mitchell’s vocals. In reflecting on his own musical journey, Levin expressed some regret for not practicing the fretless bass for a decade.
“Finally, there’s Joni Mitchell’s ‘Hejira.’ Jaco’s playing before that had impressed me, but it didn’t move me, maybe because it was so far from the styles I played. But the bass playing on this album is sublime: to me it is the apotheosis of fretless playing behind a singer. It is beautifully melodic on its own, but never interfering with the great vocals, unique harmonically, with a style of its own, and impeccably in tune… I put the fretless bass away for 10 years!”
Levin’s comments also highlight the importance of experimentation and growth in music. Perhaps his recent reflections on the impact of ‘Hejira’ and Pastorius’ fretless bass work will inspire him to rediscover this instrument and further expand his repertoire.