Concert Review: “Two of a Perfect Trio” Fairfield, CT

“Two of a Perfect Trio” featuring King Crimson members Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto
Date: Friday, September 30th, 2011
Venue: FTC’s Stage One in Fairfield, CT

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

As King Crimson’s Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto took the stage at FTC’s Stage One, a keen observer of detail in the audience decided to point out “Hey!! You’re missing your Fripp!”  However, from the first note played to the final closing bows, the crowd that gathered for this stop of the “Two of a Perfect Trio” tour were enthralled and mesmerized with all-things Crimson (and many things non-Crimson) even if Robert Fripp, the ever-esteemed founder of one of progressive rock’s most heralded bands, wasn’t the master of ceremonies.

The “Two of a Perfect Trio” tour was conceived of during the “Three of a Perfect Pair” Camp, a week-long music camp that took place in mid-August that allowed its campers – musicians and non-musicians alike – to learn from and hang out with Belew, Levin and Mastelotto.  The resulting show allows two trios Tony Levin’s Stick Men and the Adrian Belew Power Trio to each perform a set, and concludes with a third “Crim-centric” set in which various combinations of each trio’s members perform together.

With bass guru Levin on the polyphonic Chapman Stick (as well as his trusty Music Man 5-string electric complete with his patented “Funk Fingers”), Markus Reuter from Innsbruck, Germany on a custom “Touch Guitar” of his own design and drummer extraordinaire Pat Mastelotto delivering a solid funky beat interlaced with a myriad of electronic percussive sounds, the Stick Men set the tone for the three-hour show with a mighty roar in the form of the instrumental “VROOOM” from King Crimson’s 1995 album “Thrak”.  The trio then dove into a number of Stick Men originals and concluded their set with an improvisational rendition of Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite”.  Despite Reuter’s stoic stance throughout the band’s entire performance and Levin’s sometimes goofy lyric and semi-spoken lead vocals, all three “Sticks” were clearly enjoying themselves and never failed to deliver virtuoso performances and music that, while progressive and complex, was always accessible and – for one particular audience member – reason enough to put on her buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-boogie shoes.

Adrian Belew and the other two members rounding out the “Power Trio”, longtime bassist Julie Slick and newcomer Tobias Ralph on drums, began their part of the show with a sampling of Belew’s solo work (including “Young Lions”, “Beat Box Guitar” and “Of Bow and Drum”) that had much more of a pop music feel than the thickly-layered and sometimes semi-schizoid songs that King Crimson are well know for – although the trio did manage to sneak in the seldom-heard “Neurotica” from King Crimson’s 1982 album, “Beat” which served to remind the audience that they aren’t just a trio – they’re a POWER trio.  As was the case with the Stick Men, Belew and company closed their set with a long-form instrumental piece, a section from Belew’s “e”, a five-part suite that Belew performed in tandem with a full orchestra in Amsterdam earlier this year.

With her long curly hair and bare feet, the Power Trio’s Julie Slick revealed that she can lay down a serious bass groove that perfectly accompanies the extensivearray of bending, swirly and occasionally aggressive sounds that Belew can deliver via his signature series Parker Fly guitar.  Drummer Tobias Ralph delivered all of the goods and then some.  Taking the place of Julie’s brother, Eric, for this tour, Ralph positioned himself behind a fairly simple drum kit (at least in comparison to Mastelotto’s) and pounded out rhythms and beats that would make former King Crimson and Yes uber-drummer, Bill Bruford, envious.

The much-anticipated “Crim-centric” final portion of the show opened with Crims Levin, Belew and Mastelotto doing spot-on renditions of latter-day King Crimson tunes such as “Three of a Perfect Pair” and “Elephant Talk”.  Other players from each trio joined in to accentuate other powerhouse Crimtunes such as “Frame by Frame” “Thela Hun Ginjeet” and the always-blistering “Red”. Even the ballad-esque “One Time”, featuring a subtle yet powerful solo vocal by Belew, managed to work its way onto the set list.

But the defining moment of the show happened in the improvised back and forth drum duel that prefaced Belew’s lyric in “Indiscipline”.  Instead of the serious and somewhat cold super-precision that was at the core of the battle between Pat Mastelotto and Bill Bruford when this song was performed throughout the 1995 “Thrak” tour, Mastelotto and Ralph brought a whimsical and humorous quality to their bombastic exchange of phrases and licks that would rarely (if ever) be seen at an actual King Crimson show.  As Belew exclaimed at the end of the song with arms outstretched in a Rocky Balboa-esque stance, “I LIKE IT!!!”  As did all who had assembled in the Court of the Crimson King.

The “Two of a Perfect Trio” Tour continues through until October 29th.  For a list of dates and venues as well as ticket information, visit .

Confessions of a Non-Twirler: An Interview with Pat Mastelotto

Pat Mastelotto is many things – but definitely not a slouch.  Best known as the percussive genius behind current iteration of progressive uber-band King Crimson and as the drummer for the best-selling ‘80s favorite, Mr. Mister (remember “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie”?), Pat has also been a session drummer for many artists such as XTC, Scandal, Al Jarreau, the Pointer Sisters, Kenny Loggins and Martin Briley.  In his copious spare time, he’s a core part of a vast number of Crimson spin-off projects as well as various progressive “supergroups” that have featured renowned musicians such as Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa, Missing Persons), Allan Holdsworth, Eddie Jobson, the California Guitar Trio and a host of others.

He’s recently finished being a part of the “Three of a Perfect Pair” Camp, a week-long music camp in New York state that allowed its campers – musicians and non-musicians alike – to learn from, jam out and hang with him and two other members of the Crimson court: Adrian Belew and Tony Levin. He’s currently on the road with Belew and Levin on the “Two of a Perfect Trio” tour which pairs Belew’s Power Trio with Levin’s Stick Men trio.  The show closes with “an extended Crim-centric encore.”

I caught up with Pat just before embarking on the “Perfect Trio” tour and we covered a broad range of topics including the Camp, the tour, and being a member of King Crimson as well as his past involvement with other musicians work and ongoing work with the myriad of musical projects of which he is a part.  He also shared his thoughts about a certain percussion-related virally-famous YouTube video – and we even found out why an iPod wouldn’t be a bad item for him to find under his Chrismas tree this year.

Dave Picton: How did the idea for the “Three of a Perfect Pair Music Camp” come about and how did it go?
Pat Mastelotto: The idea for the Perfect Pair music camp came up about a year ago.  One of our tech guys was involved with Danny Heaps the guy up at the camp.  They had done Modeski Martin &Wood and Todd Rundgren and some others so they approached us about doing it as a great Crimson type of concept and it sifted itself down it became the three of us.

DP: What was the genesis of the Two of a Perfect Trio tour?
PM:  Because we got together to do the camp, we got a couple of offers to do some gigs like the Iridium in New York City. After a couple of gig opportunities had been presented to us, at first we said no but then it started to look like an agent could patch a whole tour together, so we pursued it and came up with the concept of having each of our trios play together as well as Adrian [Belew], Tony [Levin] and I as a trio and add the other people back in.

DP: How did you wind up becoming a member of King Crimson?
PM: The quick answer is Robert Fripp invited me.  The longer answer is that I had spent about a year on the road with Robert. Before he invited me, I was out with Robert and David Sylvian.  David and Robert had a band with Trey Gunn and myself and when that tour ended, he asked me to join Crimson and presented the idea of a double trio with Bill [Bruford].

DP: The King Crimson “Thrak” tour featured the “double trio” band line-up that paired you with Bill.  What was it like playing live with him?
PM: Well, the best example I can give is an arcade game like a pinball game.  You just try to keep the balls in the air and react to what’s going on.

DP: The 80’s saw you as the drummer for the highly-successful Mr. Mister. What was your experience like with that band?  And what was up with the wacky hairdo?
PM: The band is hard to describe. When we met there was no record deal.  We got one fast, though, and we made a record that didn’t do so well and then we did a record that exploded [1985’s “Welcome to the Real World”].  So it was an interesting revolution watching the audience change as it became sort of massified all over the world.  It was a good experience. As far as the hair goes, hey, what can I say?  It was the times. That was the ‘80s. It didn’t seem so wacky at the time.

DP: You played on – in my opinion – one of the most underrated albums of the 80’s, XTC’s “Oranges and Lemons”.  How did that come about and, given that XTC stopped performing live in 1982, do you wish there had been a tour to support the album?
PM: I saw the band play a few times at the Whiskey and later at the Santa Monica Civic after “Drums and Wires” and after “English Settlement”.  I was at the show at the Palladium when Andy [Partridge] had stage fright, so what would have been their last show – the show that didn’t happen.  I was in the audience for that too.  Way back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I had turned my friend Paul Fox onto the band – I think it was “Mechanik Dancing” from “Go 2” or one of those songs from that album.  Paul was a session keyboard player that I hung out with who later became a producer and, when he got the gig with XTC, he rang me. So that’s sort of how the connection happened.  I wish there had been a tour.  There was very close to being one. XTC set out on a small radio tour and then booked me to come over to England to do a live performance in the studio. They were going to bring an audience in try to make a controlled situation for Andy.  It was just on the brink. They talked to me about leaving on a Friday and booked the flights the following week and then I think the single [“The Mayor of Simpleton”] didn’t do as well on the charts the following week and they postponed it and it never happened.  We still stay in touch Andy, Dave [Gregory] and I.  I’ve emailed with them all within the past year or so.  Dave coincidentally appears on a record that I did with an Italian by the name of Fabio Trentini.  He was talking about how much he loved Dave’s playing and I said “Well, let’s get him on the record”. It’s called “Moonbound” and if you look around on my site or on Facebook, you can find the record and you’ll hear Dave and I playing together on that.

DP: You’re involved with something of an instrumental supergroup, HoBoLeMa, that consists of yourself, drummer Terry Bozzio, guitarist Allan Holdsworth and your Krimson cohort, Tony Levin.  How did that come about and what does the future hold for the band?
PM: Strangely enough, that started because Terry Bozzio and I both collided a few times.  We both moved from northern California to southern California around 1973 or ‘74 when he had the Frank Zappa gig.  I happened to move at around the same time to Los Angeles and was working with an artist that was on the Discreet Records label.  I was in Frank’s old rehearsal room when Terry was in the big room with Frank.  We crossed paths again in the ‘80s.  He was in Missing Persons, of course, and I was with Mr. Mister.  We were kind of pop bands of the day.  We crossed paths again through some drum events in the late 80s.  In the early ‘90s, I moved to Austin, Texas and, coincidentally, Terry also moved here.  So after a few years of having friends say “Hey, you should call Terry”, one day my phone rang and it was Terry and he said “Hey, my friends have been saying that I should call Pat”.  So after a couple of long phone calls, we hooked up at each other’s houses.  Eventually, we did some jamming together and recorded that.  We released an album under then name of Bozzio Mastelotto and we called it “BoMo”.  A year or so later, we did one show at One World Theatre here in Austin.  It’s a beautiful theatre and the owner, Hartt Sterns, is a friend of ours and is also a percussionist, so he totally indulged us.  We filled the stage with gear – no drum kits, but a lot of percussion and wacky stuff – and did a semi-improvisational show.  Several years later, around 2009, Terry called me to do some shows with him in Japan.  He was doing a few weeks worth of gigs and had different drummers joining him for different shows.  So when he invited me, I was a little nervous about that and I asked if I could bring a rhythm buddy and that was Tony Levin. Tony and I came over to play with Terry. There were improvisational shows and the last few shows were around Tokyo and Terry invited Allan Holdsworth to join us. So we met that day in Tokyo and we didn’t even really do a sound check.  We just made a little noise enough that we could document if we could hear each another across the stage and then buggered off and came back to do our show.  It was a very satisfying night for us.  Completely improvisational and really great and had a lot of really high moments.  Allan’s manager, Leo, was there and immediately suggested booking some more dates.  It took about a year for our calendars to coincide, but a couple of years ago we did a run down the west coast, Seattle down to L.A. and San Diego for about 6 or 10 shows.  We went to Europe later that year and did 20 shows in 20 days.  It was a pretty whirlwind tour.  We intended to do some shows last year in 2010, but we didn’t.  And here we are in 2011.  We’re going to do some shows this year, but it looks like it’s gonna be pushed back to the fall or maybe next year, so I think we’ll go out again as HoBoLeMa – Holdsworth, Bozzio, Levin and myself – but there’s nothing firm about that.

DP: You continue to work with former King Crimson Warr guitarist, Trey Gunn, both one-on-one and with KTU as well as with Tony Levin and Michael Bernier in Stick Men.  What has your experience been like with both of these bands?  Similarities? Differences?
PM: I continue to work with Trey quite a bit.  We have our project called “TU”.  We recently started to do some recording, so we’ll probably have a record out next year – probably.  We did some gigs earlier this year with Chrysta Bell that went really, really well.  We’ve got some videos of that but, again, we’re holding that back.  KTU with Kimmo Pohjonen, the Finlandish daredevil accordion player – we’re not active right now, though.  It might be another year or two before we try to make another record or do some gigs, probably in 2013.  There is a video coming out and a re-packaging of the first and second records that should be out later this year or early next year.  Tony and Michael with Stick Men – two more touch guitar players that play Chapman Stick – each guy is unique.  They come from a different place and play differently.  Mike had to step out of Stick Men last year for personal reasons.  We’re still friends.  I play on his new solo record that’s just been released.  We replaced hin in Stick Men with Markus Reuter.  Markus is my buddy in a project called “Tuner”.  We have about five records out already, the first one called “Totem”, the second one called “Pole”, and there’s a new one called “Face” that’s not out yet.  “Face” is conceived of as “two-faced” record with an a“A” and a “B” side and we’re just about done with the “A” side.  We spent about three or four years on it.  It’s a pretty epic production.  Nothing really to compare that to.  It might be another year or two before we get the “B” side done.  We filled in with a couple of live records as well.  So now Markus is in Stick Men playing with Tony.  He’s a touch guitar player from Germany who lives in Innsbruck.  We did gigs earlier this year in South America and in Europe. He and Tony get along great.  We’ve composed a new Stick Men record called “Absalom” that we’ll have on this tour.  We’ll continue recording later this year after the tour and early next year and have a full release for next year.

DP: If I snagged your iPod and selected “random”, what would I hear?
PM: Well, you wouldn’t hear anything, buddy. iPod bit the dust a few years ago.  It was right around the time that Stephen Wilson was doing that photo essay of broken iPods, so somewhere in his fan base you’ll find my broken iPod.  Which brings me to a good point: I’m on three tracks on a new Stephen Wilson solo record that’s just coming out next month.  I did some remixes for Stephen a few years ago and worked on one of his other projects called “No Man” with Tim Bowness.  I think I’m on one or two tracks on one of their earlier records.  So I keep in touch with Stephen and, man, he’s a super talent.  The record’s great or what I know of it and I can’t wait to hear what the rest of the record is all about.

DP: Any chance we’ll ever be seeing you play like this guy? (See video below)
PM: Hmm…let’s see what you’ve got here.  “This Drummer is at the Wrong Gig”.  Oh…OK.  I’ve seen this one before.  [Laughs]  Yeah.  What can I say about that?  I’ve shared that link with a few people.  Uh…nice outfits.  The guy’s a heck of a twirler.  Will you ever see me playing like this guy?  I hope not.  I’m not much of a twirler and never have been.  I’ve got one twirl and that’s all I can offer ya’.  It’s the one that turns the beat of the stick to the butt end of the stick. So it’s a functional twirl.  It helps me get up on the bell of the cymbal.  But…you know…this guy is a little over the top for me.  I like to sit in the back unnoticed if I can get away with it.

Getting Down to Bass-ics with Tony Levin

“Tony Levin is one of the world’s best bass players, if not the best.” – Peter Gabriel

So true.

Tony Levin (aka “TLev”) is the bass player’s bass player. Incredibly accurate in his musical phrasing but always matching the song’s mood with a sense of fluidity and true funkiness, Tony’s playing is always recognizable and unmistakable. At the forefront of experimentation, the array of instruments at his disposal isn’t strictly limited to his signature Music Man bass (which he often plays with “funk fingers” – an invention of his own design that allows him to hammer on the strings with half-size drumsticks that he attaches with tape to the index and middle fingers of his right hand), but includes the polyphonic Chapman Stick as well the Electric Upright Bass (EUB) and a host of other instrumentation.

Levin is primarily known for his work with King Crimson and Peter Gabriel as well as numerous spin-off projects like Stick Men (featuring two Chapman Stick players and current Crimson drummer, Pat Mastelotto), the Liquid Tension Experiment (with members of Dream Theatre), in addition to a host of King Crimson-related “ProjeKcts”. Over the course of his extensive career, he’s been involved with over 500 records as a session musician. The list includes some of the best-known artists in the business: John Lennon, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Todd Rundgren, Pink Floyd, Yes and Warren Zevon – just to name a few. And then there’s the list of musicians he’s toured with: Paul Simon, Peter Frampton, James Taylor, Richie Sambora…

He’s just finished being a part of the “Three of a Perfect Pair” Camp, a week-long music camp in New York state that allowed its campers – musicians and non-musicians alike – to learn from, jam out and hang with three members of the Crimson court: Adrian Belew, Pat Mastelotto and, of course, the esteemed Mr. Levin. In mid-September, the three Crims embark on the “Two of a Perfect Trio” tour which pairs Belew’s Power Trio with Levin’s Stick Men trio. The show closes with “an extended Crim-centric encore.”

I caught up with Tony between the last day of Camp and the start of the tour to chat about both of these topics as well as some of his wide array of side projects and session work. We also talked about how he goes about writing music and choosing from the myriad of instruments he’s mastered. I managed to squeeze in a couple of questions that only the seasoned Crim / TLev fan (a la “DPic”) would ever really care about – and even posed a question from one of his former touring buddies, Rick Wakeman of Yes. Tony’s answer was truly mind-boggling…

Dave Picton: How’d it go with the “Three of a Perfect Pair” Music Camp?
Tony Levin: Very well. I knew it’d be fun, but it turned out that the vibrant ‘campers’ and their passion for King Crimson’s music made it a growing experience for me. And I got the feeling they were really pleased to spend the week in that setting, hanging out with us Crimson guys. We also were able to get a lot of surprise gifts for them, which didn’t hurt!

DPic: What was the genesis of the “Two of a Perfect Trio” tour?
TLev: Seemed a good name for the tour – it’s based on the song title “Three of a Perfect Pair”. Since we have two trios… The idea for touring together, and with a Crimson based encore set, came from Adrian. He’d been thinking for some time of doing something like this with Pat and me.

DPic: “A Scarcity of Miracles” is the latest King Crimson ProjeKct. What has been your favorite ProjeKct to date (and it doesn’t necessarily have to be one that you were a member of)? Opinions / observations about being in the projeKcts (so to speak)?
TLev: The thing about me is that, like many musicians, I don’t look backward much. So I don’t even know the list of ProjeKcts I’ve done, let alone have a favorite. I can say that all of my playing in Crimson-related groups has been a great experience for me – expanding my own playing, and learning from some very special musicians. I also hope there will be lots more of it in the future.

DPic: The list of artists with whom you’ve done session work is staggering. Is there a favorite musician that you’ve worked with? Any favorite behind-the-scenes story?
TLev: Again, no favorites. Looking back, I’d have to say that my experiences with Peter Gabriel and with King Crimson (each encompassing many albums) were great for me. I also toured a lot with each, and that makes it a more complete experience – really I prefer playing live to recording, but doing both is the best way to immerse yourself in the music.

DPic: When you’re creating a song or contributing as a session musician, how do you choose between using electric bass or Chapman Stick or Electric Upright Bass?
TLev: A good question. There is no rule for me, but when I hear the song (or the composition, if it’s an instrumental) I get a sense of what I think I can contribute on the bass end. It may be simple or complex, but I sort of hear it in my head – then I can choose the instrument that might express it best. Even among my basses there are subtle differences that make some much better for certain things I might want to do. The Chapman Stick is very different, with it’s sharp attacks and huge range. I also sometimes opt for the NS Electric Upright with it’s almost acoustic bass- sound, and huge bottom end. If I’m writing the piece, sometimes I just write the music, and then approach it later as the bassist – choosing then. Sometimes of course I base the song on a riff or idea I have on a particular instrument. With Stick Men, needless to say, I write my material on the Chapman Stick.

DPic: As an aspiring bassist, I’m very intrigued by the Chapman Stick and would love to try one out before committing to buying one. Do you know of any way I (or any other Stick-curious folks) can try/rent one out?
TLev: Best idea is to contact Stick Enterprises ( and ask them – they might be able to hook you up with a player in your area, so you can try it out and have some guidance. There is a very nice community of Stick players around the world.

DPic: Your book, “Beyond the Bass Clef”, is one of the most enjoyable music-related books I’ve ever read. Any plans for a follow-up (i.e. “Way Way Waaaaay Beyond the Bass Clef”)?
TLev: Good idea – but no plans at the moment. Books and photo exhibits are great fun, but time consuming, and best done when no recording or band projects are taking up my time and creative energy. Lately, happy to say, I’m very busy making new music.

DPic: You were one of the first musicians to actively blog and keep an ongoing road diary on the web. In your opinion, how has the internet and the web affected music and musicians – both positive and negative AND you personally?
TLev: For me, it was quickly apparent that this was a great way to minimize the wall between performer and audience. It doesn’t take it away, but gives a way to share more of the experience than just the show. So I like showing behind the scenes, and telling what’s going on, and especially sharing my photos of the audience – so people who were there can see how inspiring they are to us on stage, and how they are really in some ways a part of the show.

DPic: A few years back, I spoke with world- renowned trumpet-player Chris Botti at a post-show meet-and-greet where he was kind enough to sign my copy of “Bruford Levin Upper Extremities: Blue Nights”. Many of his band-mates had never seen the CD, so he showed it to all of them and told me “I’d love to work with those guys again!” Soooo…would you be game? What about Bill Bruford and David Torn?
TLev: Always something we discuss when we meet up. Realistically, it’s been pretty unlikely for some time, and now more so, with Bill’s retirement from playing live. We did have great fun, and made some darn good music. You learn to never say never in music situations, so I’ll stick with ‘unlikely’ but add that it’d be really great if it did happen again.

DPic: One of my all-time favorite bands is Pink Floyd. On the “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” album, you played all of the bass parts. What was that experience like?
TLev: Very special. David Gilmour was great to work with, as was producer Bob Ezrin, whom I’d worked with a lot before that. Playing the music was fun, and once I got the hang of the style, it went smoothly. There was a chance of touring with the band too but, alas, it conflicted with a Peter Gabriel tour I was on.

DPic: OK…drum roll please…it’s time for the “Picayune Crimson Question That’s Plagued Me for Ages!”: On the initial LP release of “Three of a Perfect Pair”, the opening to the song “Sleepless” is a continuous non-stop bass riff extravaganza that’s – as far as I’m concerned – one of the funkiest I’ve ever heard. On all subsequent compilations and reissues, it’s markedly more staccato. Why is that? And will the original mix ever be reissued? I miss it!
TLev: I’m afraid I don’t know! I’ll try to find a copy and listen.

DPic: You were involved with the Yes-centric “Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe”. Earlier this week I interviewed Rick Wakeman. He wants to know when you’re going to get a proper haircut.
TLev: Indeed! I miss my nightly Boggle games with Rick. We’d play right up to beginning of show time … heck, even after it, since it began with a Steve Howe solo – then Rick would jump up to run onstage and play his solo section – having usually beat me, I must admit!


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