Now available from Blue Ear Books:
A newly updated edition of Dennis Rea's
Live at the Forbidden City


Recent Releases


Moraine live at Ustuu Huree Festival, Tuva 7.24.15

Moraine: "Skein," live at Chrome Hearts, Los Angeles

Dennis Rea with Cactus Truck, Achinsk, Russia 7.26.15

Identity Crisis with Cui Jian, Beijing, April 1991

Moraine: "Uncle Tang's Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," live at Chrome Hearts,
Los Angeles
Dennis Rea photograph by Danette Davis

Upcoming Shows

Wednesday, July 27
Sunset Tavern, Seattle
More shows

About Dennis Rea

Dennis Rea's adventurous guitar playing blends modern jazz, creative rock, experimental music, and world musical traditions into his own unique approach, marked by haunting lyricism, enigmatic textures, agile improvisation, and the raw dynamism of rock.

Over the years Dennis has led or been a key contributor to such innovative groups as Moraine, LAND, Iron Kim Style, Stackpole, Savant, Earthstar, and Identity Crisis. He has performed and/or recorded with many prominent international creative musicians including acclaimed French composer Hector Zazou, Dutch jazz legend Han Bennink, trombone avatar Stuart Dempster, godfather of Chinese rock Cui Jian, and Hawkwind founder Nik Turner, as well as members of King Crimson, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Santana, Ministry, and the Sun Ra Arkestra. He has performed on three continents at venues including NEARfest, WOMAD, Beijing International Jazz Festival, Sichuan-China International TV Festival, MuzEnergo Tour of Russia, Baja Prog (Mexico), Ustuu Huree Festival (Tuva), Voice of Nomads Festival (Siberia), Sonic Rock Solstice (UK), Bumbershoot, Columbia Gorge Amphitheater, Northwest Folklife Festival, Earshot Jazz Festival, Orion Sound Studios (Baltimore), Chrome Hearts (Los Angeles), Seattle Art Museum, and Seattle Asian Art Museum. 

He has collaborated with many of the most important figures in contemporary Chinese music and was one of the first Western musicians to record an album for the state-owned China Record Company. His activities have spanned film, theater, radio, and modern dance, and he has appeared on more than 40 recordings to date. He is also an accomplished author whose book Live at the Forbidden City: Musical Encounters in China and Taiwan was reissued in an updated edition by Blue Ear Books in 2015. He is a co-organizer of the annual Seaprog festival and the periodic Zero-G concert series, and for more than a decade co-organized the long-running Seattle Improvised Music Festival.  

His current projects include world-renowned avant-rock band Moraine, Jon Davis's Zhongyu, processed thumb piano trio Tempered Steel, Flame Tree (with Hawkwind founder Nik Turner), Subduction Zone (with Wally Shoup and Tom Zgonc), the Heaney-Henneman-Rea Guitar Threesome, Don Berman's Empty Boat, Jack Gold-Molina's Spectral Waves, the Jim Cutler Jazz Orchestra, and Daniel Barry's Celestial Rhythm Orchestra.

Purchase Dennis Rea's music online

Detailed Bio

Dennis Rea's music career began in the early 1970s when he formed the eccentric progressive rock group Zuir in his hometown of Utica, New York. In the late 1970s he made a series of albums in Germany with Craig Wuest's Earthstar (produced by electronic music pioneer Klaus Schulze), perhaps the only American unit to participate in that country's "kosmische musik" scene at its height. In the early 1980s he collaborated with composer K. Leimer in the vanguard Seattle-based experimental music group Savant. In 1983 he moved to New York City, where he was involved with the Downtown new-music community. Since returning to Seattle in the late 1980s, he has performed or recorded with such accomplished musicians as Stuart Dempster, Nik Turner, Jeff Greinke, Fred Chalenor, Wally Shoup, Bill Horist, Lesli Dalaba, India Cooke, Trey Gunn, Lori Carson, Boris Savoldelli, Elaine DiFalco, Toshi Makihara, Elizabeth Falconer, Amy Denio, Daniel Barry, Eric Apoe, Bill Rieflin, Steve Fisk, Jack Endino, Alain Blesing, Greg Campbell, Marc Egea, Vasco Trilla, Wadim Dicke, Yuri Turov, Lionel Friedli, Onno Govaert, Olli Klomp, Gregg Keplinger, Greg Gilmore, Paul Kikuchi, Jessica Lurie, Eyvind Kang, Jim Knodle, Don Berman, Geoff Harper, John Seman, Brian Heaney, Simon Henneman, Dick Valentine, Kate Olson, Beth Fleenor, Lynette Westendorf, Stephen Fandrich, Jovino Santos Neto, Marena Whitcher, Andrina Bollinger, Carol Genetti, Wang Yong, Young Sub Lee, Alex's Hand, and many others.

Dennis Rea with dancers, Chongqing Arena 1990

Between 1989 and 1996 Dennis spent several years living in China and Taiwan, where he gave more than 100 concerts at cultural centers, universities, music conservatories, and clubs, on radio and television, and in sports arenas with the Chinese pop star Zhang Xing. His 1990 solo album for the China Record Company, Shadow in Dreams, sold 40,000 copies and was cited among the year's best releases by China Youth Daily. While abroad he organized three of the earliest unofficial concert tours of China by Western bands, comprising more than 40 concerts in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Macau, as well as a performance at the 1991 Sichuan China International TV Festival that was viewed by a television audience numbering in the hundreds of millions. He has performed with such influential Chinese musicians as Cui Jian, Wang Yong, Liu Yuan, Liang Heping, He Yong, ADO, and Cobra. He also presented lectures on jazz and guitar technique at Sichuan Music Conservatory and has written extensively about Chinese music in various popular and academic publications. In 2005 he returned to Taiwan for a concert tour with the international bands Jetlegrs and Chekov; in 2008 he again traveled to Taiwan for reunion concerts with his early 1990s Taiwan-based band Identity Crisis and subsequent performances with the international jazz-rock quartet Ting Bu Dong.

He has been awarded grants for his musical activities by the U.S. State Department (Fulbright-Hays program), Arts International Fund for U.S. Artists Abroad, Seattle Arts Commission, King County Arts Commission, Malcolm S. Morse Foundation, and Jack Straw Foundation, and has received funding and/or encouragement from the Washington State China Relations Council, European Foundation for Chinese Music Research, and New York's China Institute to conduct research for Live at the Forbidden City, a book-length account of his groundbreaking experiences playing music in Asia. He has been profiled in Guitar Player and numerous print and online publications; interviewed by National Public Radio and other nationally syndicated radio programs; and acted as a panelist or consultant for the Experience Music Project, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Jack Straw Productions, and the Seattle Center ArtsEdge Festival. He has presented dozens of the world's finest progressive, experimental, and improvising musicians to Northwest audiences as a former co-director of the now 31-year-old Seattle Improvised Music Festival and of Seattle's Other Sounds, and current co-director of the Seaprog festival and Zero-G concert series. From 1997-2001 he was co-editor of the Tentacle journal of Northwest creative music.

Dennis Rea is managed by MoonJune Records & Management

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