Artist/ Band: Dennis Rea
Title: Views From Chicheng Precipice
Label: MoonJune
Year of Release: 2010
Offical Artist/ Band Link

The Review:

Dennis Rea is originally from Chicago but now working in Seattle, which happens to be my backyard. Rea, age 53, works with a large group of artists here to complete a beautiful contrast in styles on this new venture called "Views From Chicheng Precipice". Dennis worked with an electronics band called Earthstar back in the 70's and also has done work with Jeff Greinke. Other major artists he worked with include Hector Zazou (one of my all time favorites) and Bill Rieflin. He has a solid background in electronic music as you can see. The little known facts about Rea are he taught English in China and Tawain for 4 years, and he published a book about his experiences called "Live at the Forbidden City". So you now can gather the depth of this recording he made. Not just some idea to record some Asian inspired music, but a very personal and intimate knowledge of the culture and goings on there.

I can already see from the list of musicians he brings in from the Seattle arena, these artist are among the best of the best of this region at what they do, and none are afraid of the creative experience. No, these artists on this recording are pros, and all about the music and the art that results. Alicia Allen on viola, Greg Camphell on drums and percussion, Ruth Davidson on cello, James DeJoie on bass flute, bamboo flute, and bass clarinet, Caterina De Re on voice (you will love her brilliant eccentric performance), Stuart Dempster on trombone and couch shell, Will Dowd on drums and percussion, Elizabeth Falconer on koto, John Falconer on shakuhachi, Jay Jaskot on drums, Paul Kikuchi on percussion, and Kevin Millard on Baliset

If you are expecting anything remotely akin to his other bands Moraine or Iron Kim Style, you might be slightly disappointed. But then again, if you are a proghead for many years, you are used to the solo albums by musicians (esp. guitarists) being sometimes contrary or just far from their main band styles. In this case, Dennis makes an alternately serene and gorgeous East Asian soaked album with some surprising upheavals in a very sparse amount of spots. Given the large number of instruments used on this, by 12 additional musicians, it juices up this oriental themed work quite a lot. I find the odd mix of bass flute, trombone and conch shell very smart and genius, to the mainstay of electric and resonator guitars, melodica, Naxi jaw harp, kalimba, and Vietnamese monochord (all played by Dennis Rea himself). Some of the CD sounds like Shadowfax when Charlie Bisharat was playing with them. Some of it sounds like the most otherworldly animal sound making music on the planet. (nodding towards those magical moments of Gong when Good Witch Yoni was casting her spell, or maybe one hears Meredith Monk with her vocal acrobatics). In fact, you will hear so many moments of flashbacks in just those small doses, it really makes this CD a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end. Even a spread of King Crimson 'Starless and Bible Black' avant jazz improve influences tosses the listener a bone on cut 5 (Bagua), which is the last track and lasts a pleasant 10 minutes and 41 seconds. Although many will say this is a low key and even ambient ( aaarrgh, those mates would be very wrong!!) from Rea's usual activity, I for one say this is a very nice trip off to the other universe, and it is chocked full of musical magic. It's playful, serious, deep, wide, high, and always interesting. Also, it is his spiritual endeavor and rightly so. It's a big recommendation from me!

Reviewed by Lee Henderson on August 31st, 2010

Tracks:

01. Views From Chicheng Precipice
02. Tangabata
03. Kan Hai De Re Zi
04. Aviariations on "A Hundred Birds Serenade the Phoenix"
05. Bagua

Reviewed Discography

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