Are these musicians or mutants with multiple appendages?
By Russell Eldridge
While Listening to the Levin Minnemann Rudess album, I find myself asking “Who’s doing what here?” Okay, that’s a bass line, so that must be Tony Levin, but what’s that? Is that a guitar line? Who’s doing that? Is that Jordan Rudess? Is that Levin on the Chapman Stick? Is that guitar line coming from Rudess or is he playing the bass line? Could all of these amazing layers be performed as just a trio? Are Tony Levin, Marco Minnemann, and Jordan Rudess mutants with multiple appendages?
In an interview with Ellen Eldridge (for Performer Magazine), Tony Levin explains a little about how he plays the Chapman Stick. Levin plays a 12-string version with six bass strings and six guitar strings, and that it’s played by tapping on the strings instead of strumming them. I can hear how that would work in the starting track “MarcoPolis.” Levin said that his Chapstick has two outputs that go to two different amps, so he can achieve different sounds from the bass or guitar part of the Chapman Stick. After hearing all this and listening a little more, I can here the separation a little more clearly.
The next track, “The Twitch,” starts off with drums and bass reminiscent of Primus’ “My Name is Mud.” The percussive attack on the bass makes me wonder if Levin used his Funk Fingers on this track. Levin said that the Funk Fingers were designed to achieve a more percussive sound. While recording the track “Big Time” for Peter Gabriel, Levin had drummer Jerry Marotta play the strings with his drumstick while Levin fretted the notes. It was tricky for them to do the same live so Peter Gabriel suggested that Levin just attach drumsticks to his fingers. This eventually turned into Funk Fingers, which are for sale.
Levin Minneman Rudess fascinates track after track, and one could listen to the album hundreds of times and still pick up something new each time around. The only way one could get a clear picture of how these musical monsters pulled this stuff off is seeing them live. Yup, that settles it.