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Diving headfirst into prog-rock’s masterpiece theatre with King Crimson

Monday 16th, November 2015 / 14:48
By Christine Leonard
What do we say? This is the one and only King Crimson.

What do we say? This is the one and only King Crimson.

CALGARY — Ever happy with what they have to be happy with, legendary British prog-rockers King Crimson have come a fair stride in time since forming in London in 1968. Widely regarded as pioneers of the progressive rock genre. their kaleidoscopic music combines jazz, folk, psychedelia, experimental, heavy metal, hard rock, new wave, neo-classical and electronic music, for a start. Despite being largely under exposed, by media channels the band has gone on to issue 13 studio albums, including their canonical 1969 debut, In The Court Of The Crimson King and the almost equally revered Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (1973).

Maximized under monarch Fripp’s exacting and autocracy, King Crimson continues to produce distinguished works that honour the artistic precepts under which the group founded. King Crimson’s Live at the Orpheum (2015) and the earlier offshoot album A Scarcity of Miracles – A King Crimson ProjeKCt (2011) feature members of the current touring line-up. The legendary American bassist Tony Levin and saxophonist Mel Collins, who first joined the group in ‘70, will be accompanying Fripp on his North American leg, along with three, yes three, drummers. Percussionists Pat Mastelotto (from King Crimson’s 2009 lineup), Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) and Bill Rieflin (R.E.M., Ministry, KMFDM) are aboard, as are second guitarist/vocalist Jakko Jakszyk, who has replaced uninvited alumnus Adrian Belew.

“I would say that each of the other players in the band has a high degree of creativity on his instrument; certainly enough to inspire me,” Levin relates. “And, these are very technically proficient players, of course. But there is also need, in a band this size, to have the musical taste to hold back some of the time on what you could be playing, to leave musical space for the other players. That’s a talent that even some very good musicians don’t focus on, and in this band it’s crucial.”

Leader of his own band, Stick Men, “Funk Fingers” Levin’s skillful manipulation of the electric bass, Chapman Stick and NS upright bass has made him an icon. A favourite of Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, John Lennon, Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, amongst many others, Levin has performed on some 500 albums.

“I have had a number of teachers, and I took some knowledge from each of them, but it’s the other players who taught me, by being musically around them, some of the most valuable qualities of playing. I’m still in the same frame of mind I was at a young age, trying to become a better player, to explore new music, and to be qualified to be on the stage with some great musicians. I think this incarnation of King Crimson is a good example of that – the level of musicianship is very high, and I have things to learn from all the other players.”

In the end, Fripp’s personal interest in finding reaching a satisfactory conclusion means sifting through an imposing back-catalogue that has seen two dozen musicians contribute to the loquacious band’s oeuvre.

“It’s Robert (Fripp) who holds the real vision of what King Crimson will be musically. He suggests material, old and new, and we then work hard on it and see if it’s going to be good enough to be part of the live show. He doesn’t dictate, but he recognizes when we’ve arrived at it or not, and we gladly follow that sense.”

King Crimson performs in Calgary on November 24th, 2015 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall and in Vancouver on November 26th and 27th at the Vogue Theatre.

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