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Dennis Rea — Views from Chicheng Precipice
(Moonjune MJR034, 2010, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2011-06-01
Classical Chinese poetry, like Japanese haiku, even in English translation, can be very evocative, carefully choosing certain details to trigger the mind to fill in an entire scene. For the most part using Chinese music (both traditional and modern) as an inspiration rather than actual source material, American guitarist Dennis Rea utilizes sparse instrumentation and superb musicianship to accomplish the same effect. With his various guitars, both electric and acoustic, at the core, and guests contributing other instruments, Rea creates aural spaces ranging from elegant melody to abstract noise. The Asian influence is pervasive but not a barrier to Western ears; other influences come from free jazz and electronic music of the more academic stripe (rather than popular dance styles). The result is paradoxically both personal and collective, clearly the product of Rea’s vision while featuring all the participants equitably. It’s a far cry from some of Rea’s other work, such as Moraine and Iron Kim Style, but the same questing spirit and open-minded creativity infuse the music with an intangible Rea-ness in spite of the vastly different sound. One track’s foray into bird-mimicking vocals may put off some listeners, but in general, this is highly listenable avant-garde music straddling genres to the point of making them irrelevant.
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