Photo by Daniel Sheehan

Upcoming Shows | News | Bio | Press | Discography
Current and Recent Projects | Compositions | Writing

Live at the Forbidden City

NOW AVAILABLE: At long last, Dennis Rea's book, Live at the Forbidden City: Musical Encounters in China and Taiwan, has been published and is available at the following online booksellers:
Purchase online from Barnes & Noble
Purchase online from iUniverse


Upcoming Shows

Sunday, July 15: Dennis Rea, Stuart Dempster, Jim DeJoie & Greg Campbell
Seattle, Floating Leaves Tea House, 2213 NW Market Street in Ballard, 3 pm, donation
Dennis (guitars), Stuart (trombone, didgeridu, soundmakers), Jim (flute, reeds), and Greg (percussion) perform an afternoon set of improvised and Chinese music as part of Floating Leaves' second anniversary festivities.

Wednesday, July 18: Moraine / The Spoils / Metal Composers Showdown
Seattle, Rebar, 1707 1114 Howell Street, 9 pm, $5
Moraine is a dynamic electric string quartet plus drums featuring violinist Alicia Allen, bassist Dominic Chiaverini, cellist/composer Ruth Davidson, drummer Jay Jaskot, and guitarist/composer Dennis Rea. The group's original 'heavy chamber music' draws on influences ranging from adventurous rock to fractured bebop to Chinese music and more.

Saturday, July 21: Dennis Rea & Ed Petry
Seattle, Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center, 649 Sunnyside Ave. N in Wallingford, 4:30 pm, donation
Dennis Rea and Ed Petry play a 15-minute guitar duet as part of Nonsequitur's marathon all-day festival featuring a who's who of Seattle-area experimental musicians.

Thursday, July 26: Moraine
Seattle, Egan's Ballard Jam House, 1707 NW Market Street, 9 pm, $5

Wednesday, August 8: Moraine
Seattle, Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center, 649 Sunnyside Ave. N in Wallingford, 8 pm, $5-15
Part of Earshot Jazz's "Jazz: The Second Century" concert series.

Thursday, August 9: Sio Ieng Ng, Caterina De Re & Dennis Rea
Seattle Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park, 8 pm (?)
Dennis and Caterina perform a brief improvisation on acoustic guitar and voice to accompany an exhibition of acclaimed Beijing-based artist Sio Ieng Ng's video paintings.

Date TBA: Moraine
Seattle area and online worldwide, Sonarchy Radio, KEXP 90.3 FM and streaming at, $5
See 7/26 listing above.



April 2007

Dennis and drummer Olli Klomp traveled to Munich in March to join with Dennis' old musical comrades Andreas Vath (AKA Atze Ton) and Volker Wiedersheim in a quasi-reunion of their Taiwan-based 1990s band Identity Crisis. The foursome recorded definitive versions of five of Dennis' more jazz-oriented tunes (listen to rough mixes at Lustful Pigdog's Myspace site) and played a crackling double-bill with Andreas' band Chekov at the Monofaktur club on 3/15.

February 2007

I'm delighted to report that I've been awarded a full studio residency by Jack Straw Productions as part of their annual Artist Support Program. I'll be using the opportunity to continue work on my Asian-influenced CD-in-progress, in collaboration with the great Stuart Dempster, Greg Campbell, James DeJoie, and others. In the meanwhile, another tune will be recorded for the CD by Moraine in Will Dowd's studio in early March.

January 2007

Iron Kim Style and special guest saxophonist Izaak Mills head into Jack Straw studio this month to record material for an eventual CD release.

September 2006

An excerpt from Dennis Rea's newly recorded composition "Three Views from Chicheng Precipice" appears on the soundtrack to acclaimed Seattle filmmaker Cheryl Slean's new film Diggers. The film will be released in late fall and will be featured at the 2007 Seattle International Film Festival and other film festivals.

Dennis is slated to appear on Seattle's KUOW public radio, where he will discuss and read from his newly published book Live at the Forbidden City and play musical selections by Dennis Rea and Chinese artists. Date TBA.

May 2006

NOW AVAILABLE: At long last, Dennis Rea's book, Live at the Forbidden City: Musical Encounters in China and Taiwan, has been published and is available at the following online booksellers:
Purchase online from iUniverse
Purchase online from Barnes & Noble
Purchase online from

March 2005

Dennis was honored to be among the nominees for best guitarist in the 2005 Seattle Weekly Music Awards.

December 2004

Dennis is among the contributors to the recent release Free Touching: Live in Beijing at Keep in Touch, a double CD documenting a series of free improvisations recorded during the 1996 Beijing International Jazz Festival and featuring Han Bennink (drums), Wang Yong (guzheng), Andreas Schreiber (violin), Dennis Rea (guitar), Steffen Schorn (reeds), Claudio Puntin (reeds), and Lesli Dalaba (trumpet). The release is quite possibly the first recording of free improvisation to emerge from China.

April 2004

Dennis appears on acclaimed French composer Hector Zazou’s newly released Strong Currents, the follow-up to his masterful Songs from the Cold Seas. Strong Currents is a collection of songs that Zazou composed for a top-flight cast of female singers including Laurie Anderson, Lisa Germano, Jane Birkin, and Melanie Gabriel (daughter of Peter). Dennis appears on the track “In the Middle of the Night,” sung by Lori Carson (Golden Palominos) ( listen to MP3 clip ). Other musicians on the album include Ryuichi Sakamoto, R.E.M.'s Bill Rieflin, and Stefano Bollani.


Dennis Rea's adventurous guitar playing blends modern jazz, creative rock, experimental music, and world musical traditions into an approach that is uniquely his own, encompassing haunting lyricism, enigmatic textures, agile improvisation, and the raw dynamism of rock. He has performed on three continents at such prestigious venues as the WOMAD Festival, Beijing International Jazz Festival, Sichuan-China International TV Festival, Bumbershoot Arts Festival, Columbia Gorge Amphitheater, Northwest Folklife Festival, Earshot Jazz Festival, On the Boards, Seattle Art Museum, and Henry Art Museum. Over the years Dennis has led or been a key contributor to numerous innovative groups, including Land, Stackpole, Axolotl, Savant, Earthstar, Fred, Catabatics, the Vagaries, Color Anxiety, Ink, Identity Crisis, the Hyperbaric Chamber Trio, the Gang of Formosa, and Jetlegrs. He has performed or recorded with such prominent creative musicians as European free jazz legend Han Bennink, Chinese rock megastar Cui Jian, acclaimed French composer Hector Zazou, German electronic music pioneer Klaus Schulze, and trombone virtuoso Stuart Dempster, as well as members of King Crimson, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Ministry, and the Sun Ra Arkestra. His activities have spanned film, theater, radio, and modern dance, and he has appeared on nearly two-dozen recordings to date.

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. 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 improvisers community. Since returning to Seattle in the late 1980s, he has performed or recorded with such innovative musicians as Jeff Greinke, Fred Chalenor, Wally Shoup, Eric Apoe, Gregg Keplinger, Bill Horist, Lesli Dalaba, India Cooke, Trey Gunn, Lori Carson, Toshi Makihara, Elizabeth Falconer, Amy Denio, Tucker Martine, Bill Rieflin, Roland Barker, Michael Monhart, Jessica Lurie, Eyvind Kang, Craig Flory, Jim Knodle, Geoff Harper, Lynette Westendorf, and Olli Klomp.

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, involving 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 has also presented lectures on jazz and guitar technique at Sichuan Music Conservatory and has written extensively about Chinese music. In spring 2005 he returned to Taiwan for a two-week concert tour with the international bands Jetlegrs and Chekov.

He has been awarded grants for his musical activities by the 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 interviewed by National Public Radio and other nationally syndicated radio programs, by national research foundation the Urban Institute, and by numerous 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 also presented dozens of the world's finest experimental and improvising musicians to Northwest audiences as a former co-producer of the 20-year-old Seattle Improvised Music Festival and of Seattle's Other Sounds new-music concert series. From 1997-2001 he was co-editor of the Tentacle journal of Northwest creative music.

Dennis' current and recent projects include explosive improvisational jazz-rock quintet Iron Kim Style, the electric string quartet-plus-drums Moraine, acclaimed singer-songwriter Eric Apoe's ensemble Eric Apoe & They, processed thumb piano trio Tempered Steel, and Jetlegrs, an international quintet specially assembled for a spring 2005 concert tour of Taiwan.



2001 Interview in Exposé magazine.

China Post: Jetleggers Reunite in Tainan

Sichuan Youth Newspaper: Identity Crisis in Chengdu: Music Makes It All Come True

"Dennis is a young, very talented musician who I think will develop into something quite interesting"
—Stan Getz in 1979

"A guitarist who seems to have leapt lately from impressive to astonishing .... surely one of the region's most distinctive instrumentalists."
—Earshot Jazz

"The first time I heard LAND guitarist Dennis Rea, he was playing the greatest phased guitar solo of all time on Earthstar's 1979 classic of Euro-electronica, French Skyline."
—The Wire

"Anybody who can make a guitar sound like my broken radiator is all right by me."
—audience member at a Dennis Rea solo prepared-dobro performance

More on Dennis Rea


Current and recent Projects


Moraine is an electric string quartet plus drums featuring guitarist/composer Dennis Rea, cellist/composer Ruth Davidson, violinist Alicia Allen, bassist Mike Davidson, and drummer Jay Jaskot. Moraine performs original compositions that draw on influences ranging from math-rock to fractured bebop to Chinese music and are gigging around town with increasing frequency. A recording of Dennis' new composition "Three Views from Chicheng Precipice," featuring the members of Moraine with Will Dowd in place of Jay Jaskot, was recently completed as part of a projected album of Asian-inspired music. Moraine Web page with audio samples

Iron Kim Style is an explosive jazz-rock improv quintet featuring guitarists Dennis Rea and Thaddaeus Brophy, trumpeter Bill Jones, bassist Ryan Berg, and drummer Jay Jaskot. Drawing on influences as diverse as Olivier Messiaen, electric-period Miles Davis, and North Korean martial music, Iron Kim Style creates spontaneous sonic epics that encompass everything from stomping grooves to grinding noise to passages of eerie beauty.

Tempered Steel

Tempered Steel features Ffej, Frank Junk, and Dennis Rea playing a variety of amplified, electronically processed thumb pianos. Tempered Steel sounds like no other thumb piano ensemble you've ever heard, conjuring phantasms of harpsichords, as-yet-uninvented stringed instruments, and musique concrete. Click here for a taste of the group's forthcoming CD.

Eric Apoe is the proverbial voice crying in the wilderness, daring to tell it like it is in his affecting "songs of love and doom." Eric's arresting lyrics and hoary vocals cut to the heart of the human condition, framed by the imaginative neo-chamber arrangements of his group They. Among Eric's regular collaborators are guitarists Dennis Rea and John Olufs, violinist Alicia Allen, saxophonist Damien Aitken, bassists Fred Chalenor and Tije DeCoster, and drummer Olli Klomp. As a songwriter, Eric has forgotten more genres than most people ever master, with a stylistic breadth spanning folk, rock, jazz, blues, ballads, Celtic music, cabaret tunes, weirdness, and more. Eric's CDs include Songs of Love and Doom (1996), Dream Asylum (produced by Soundgarden's Matt Cameron, 2000), Radioation (2002), and the highly praised Book of Puzzles (2005)

Axolotl disbanded in late 2002 as its members dispersed to focus on other interests. Many thanks to everyone who supported Axolotl during its five-year run in Seattle. Band members continue to work with each other in aggregates such as Iron Kim Style and Jetlegrs, which made a concert tour of Taiwan in spring 2005 along with original Axolotl members still resident in Taiwan.

Active sporadically from 1998–2001, Stackpole was an incendiary free-jazz quartet featuring guitarist Dennis Rea, acoustic bassist Geoff Harper, Northwest drum legend Gregg Keplinger, and alto saxophonist Wally Shoup. Stackpole's totally improvised music ranged from eerie, hovering sonorities to hurtling freebop to hurricane-force sonic gales, as heard on the group's eponymous CD on the First World Music label. Stackpole was the winner of Earshot Jazz's "Golden Ear" award for best Northwest "Outside Jazz" group of 2001.

nt Pr ojects

From 1993–2000, Jeff Greinke's collaborative project LAND included such imaginative and accomplished instrumentalists as Greinke (keyboards, voice, composer), Fred Chalenor (bass, stick), Lesli Dalaba (trumpet), Greg Gilmore (percussion), Bill Moyer (percussion), Ed Pias (percussion), Dennis Rea (guitar), Bill Rieflin (drums), and George Soler (stick). The various incarnations of the group skillfully interwove electronic music, jazz, progressive rock, and world music influences to create an absorbing blend of composition and improvisation that was both strikingly modern and imbued with primordial mystery. LAND earned critical acclaim for its live performances (including a 1996 tour of China, Hong Kong, and Macau) and its three CDs on the Extreme, Periplum, and First World labels.

LAND Web page



Hundreds of solo and group performances in the U.S., China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Germany. Among the artists Dennis has performed or recorded with are Han Bennink, Hector Zazou, Stuart Dempster, Cui Jian, Jeff Greinke, K. Leimer, Wang Yong, Lesli Dalaba, Elizabeth Falconer, India Cooke, Wally Shoup, Amy Denio, Toshi Makihara, Trey Gunn, Fred Chalenor, Tucker Martine, Bill Rieflin, Jessica Lurie, Eyvind Kang, Craig Flory, Bill Horist, Briggan Krauss, Eric Apoe, Gregg Keplinger, Liang Heping, Liu Yuan, Geoff Harper, and Reuben Radding.


Performances of original jazz, progressive rock, electronic music, and improvised music at festivals, concerts, and clubs in the Pacific Northwest and New York, including the WOMAD Festival, Bumbershoot Arts Festival, Seattle Improvised Music Festival , Earshot Jazz Festival, Northwest Folklife Festival, ArtsEdge Festival, Olympia Experimental Music Festival, Columbia Gorge Amphitheater, Experience Music Project, On The Boards, Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle Art Museum, Henry Art Museum, Egg Lake Faire, Seattle city parks, the Sonarchy live radio hour, and dozens of live music clubs in Seattle.





Mixed Media


Music Writing


Axolotl | Stackpole | LAND | Writing | Live at the Forbidden City


dennis at

Site Design | Nunatak Logo by Scott Martin/Urban Design