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Over the years Dennis has led or been a key contributor to such innovative groups as Moraine, LAND, Iron Kim Style, Stackpole, Savant, Earthstar, Identity Crisis, and Ting Bu Dong. He has performed or recorded with many prominent creative musicians, including acclaimed French composer Hector Zazou, Dutch jazz legend Han Bennink, trombone virtuoso Stuart Dempster, godfather of Chinese rock Cui Jian, and Korean master musician Young Sub Lee, as well as members of King Crimson, Hawkwind, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Santana, Ministry, and the Sun Ra Arkestra. He has performed on three continents at venues such as NEARfest, WOMAD, Beijing International Jazz Festival, Sichuan-China International TV Festival, MuzEnergo Tour of Russia, Baja Prog, Bumbershoot, Columbia Gorge Amphitheater, Northwest Folklife Festival, Orion Sound Studios, Earshot Jazz Festival, Chrome Hearts (Los Angeles), and Seattle Art Museum.
Dennis 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 30 recordings to date. He is also an accomplished author whose book Live at the Forbidden City: Musical Encounters in China and Taiwan will be reissued in an updated edition by Blue Ear Books in late 2014. 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.
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Photo by Jon Davis
Dennis' 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 proto-electronica group Earthstar (produced by electronic music pioneer Klaus Schulze). In the early 1980s he collaborated with composer K. Leimer in the acclaimed 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, 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, Eric Apoe, Bill Rieflin, Greg Campbell, Michael Monhart, Paul Kikuchi, Jessica Lurie, Eyvind Kang, Craig Flory, Jim Knodle, Geoff Harper, John Seman, Lynette Westendorf, and Olli Klomp.
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 two-week 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, 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 magazine and interviewed by National Public Radio, other nationally syndicated radio programs, and numerous print and online publications, and has acted as a panelist or consultant for the Experience Music Project, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the Seattle Center ArtsEdge Festival. He has presented dozens of the world's finest experimental and improvising musicians to Northwest audiences as a former co-director of the 29-year-old Seattle Improvised Music Festival and of Seattle's Other Sounds and Zero-G concert series. From 1997-2001 he was co-editor of the Tentacle journal of Northwest creative music.
Dennis' current and recent projects include instrumental avant-rock band Moraine, Jon Davis's Zhongyu, Iron Kim Style, processed thumb piano trio Tempered Steel (with Ffej and Frank Junk), the Brian Heaney - Simon Henneman - Dennis Rea Guitar Threesome, Don Berman's Empty Boat, and Ting Bu Dong (with Atze Ton, Volker Wiedersheim, James DeJoie, and Olli Klomp), an international jazz-rock quintet that has performed in Taiwan, Germany, and the U.S.
Dennis Rea is exclusively managed by MoonJune Records & Management
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