MoonJune stalwart Dennis Rea (Moraine, Iron Kim Style, Zhongyu) continues his series of “musical travelogues” with Giant Steppes, a boldly unconventional exploration of Central Asian music that follows on from his acclaimed 2010 MoonJune release Views From Chicheng Precipice. The album also comes with Rea's companion book Tuva and Busted, available as a free download from Blue Ear Books at blueearbooks.com/books/tuva-and-busted
Recorded over several years in Seattle and Siberia, Giant Steppes is the ever-unpredictable guitarist/composer/arranger's most ambitious album so far, interpolating Silk Road desert airs, Russian choral songs, Tuvan throat singing, and mutant Tibetan pop with a gleeful yet respectful disregard for genre purity. The album is all over the map both geographically and sonically, mingling jazz, heavy prog, krautrock, surf, electroacoustic soundscapes, and field recordings and showcasing such formidable musicians as Tuvan singer Albert Kuvezin (Yat Kha), celebrated Russian choral ensemble Juliana & PAVA, badass bassist Wadim Dicke, trumpet mage Greg Kelley, Rea's 1970s Earthstar bandmate Daniel Zongrone, and Seattle treasures Steve Fisk, Doug Haire, Stuart Dempster, Dick Valentine, Don Berman, Greg Campbell, Brian Oppel, and Greg Powers.
What's more, Giant Steppes is paired with Rea's new companion book Tuva and Busted, a joint publication made available for free by MoonJune Records and Blue Ear Books. In the manner of his previous book Live at the Forbidden City, this richly illustrated account relates the improbable tale of how an early interest in Tuvan music eventually led, via two MuzEnergo tours of Russia, to Rea performing in the remote republic, collaborating with distinguished Tuvan musicians, and even acting as a judge in a throat-singing competition. The book includes expanded liner notes for Giant Steppes that detail each album track’s origin and making. Tuva and Busted is available now as a free eBook from Blue Ear Books.
In Rea's words:
Just as my 2010 MoonJune Records release Views from Chicheng Precipice was an unorthodox sonic love letter to East Asia’s traditional music, Giant Steppes takes a similarly capricious look at traditional and modern music from Central Asia – in this case the Uyghur homeland of Xinjiang, the Altai and Tuva regions of Russia, and Tibet – as viewed through the lens of my personal experiences in these places and my own mongrel musical interests. It is not an attempt at authenticity but an earnest inquiry into the enticing possibilities suggested by its musical and geographical sources. I’m humbled by the generosity of spirit of my collaborators, and dedicate this music with love and respect to the landscapes, people, and wildlife of the heart of Asia.
About the free e-book Tuva and Busted
Published as a companion book to his musical album Giant Steppes, Dennis Rea’s Tuva and Busted is a free eBook available as a joint publication courtesy of Blue Ear Books in partnership with MoonJune Records. In the manner of his previous book Live at the Forbidden City, this richly illustrated account relates the improbable tale of how an early interest in music from the tiny republic of Tuva in remote Central Asia eventually led, via two MuzEnergo tours of Russia, to Rea performing in Tuva, collaborating with distinguished Tuvan musicians, and even acting as a judge in a throat-singing competition. The book also offers expanded liner notes for Rea’s brilliant new album Giant Steppes, detailing each track’s origin and making. Tuva and Busted is available now as a free eBook from Blue Ear Books.
Dennis Rea short bio:
Active since the mid-1970s, guitarist-composer-arranger Dennis Rea has led or been a key contributor to such innovative groups as Moraine, Iron Kim Style, Zhongyu, LAND, Savant, and Earthstar and has worked with such prominent creative musicians as Hector Zazou, Stuart Dempster, Cui Jian, Albert Kuvezin, Klaus Schulze, Han Bennink, Hawkwind members Nik Turner and Michael Moorcock, and members of King Crimson, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Santana, Ministry, and the Sun Ra Arkestra. He has performed widely throughout the U.S. and in China, Russia, Germany, the UK, Taiwan, and Mexico. He has appeared on roughly 40 recordings to date for MoonJune Records and other labels. He is also the author of Live at the Forbidden City: Musical Encounters in China and Taiwan, a chronicle of his adventures as one of the earliest progressive Western musicians to perform in China, and Tuva and Busted, an account of his further musical peregrinations in Central Asia. Rea's work has increasingly focused on bridging musical traditions from around the globe in personalized ways, as shown on his landmark albums Views From Chicheng Precipice and Giant Steppes.
"Dennis Rea's adventurous guitar playing blends jazz, rock, experimental, and world music into a unique vocabulary, marked by haunting lyricism, enigmatic textures, agile improvisation, and the raw dynamism of rock."
released January 21, 2021
1. Live at Gaochang (Uyghur traditional, arr. Dennis Rea) 16:39
Dennis Rea (electric, resonator, and ‘Mellotron’ guitars)
Dick Valentine (alto and sopranino saxophones)
Greg Kelley (trumpet)
Stuart Dempster (didgeridoo)
Greg Campbell (electric French horn)
Don Berman (drums, percussion)
Sources: “Yaru, “Morning,” and “Ejem,” from the 1980s collection Uyghur Music of Xinjiang.
2. Altai By and By (Russian traditional, arranged by Juliana Svetlitchnaia / Dennis Rea) 08:46
Dennis Rea (electric guitar)
Juliana & PAVA (vocals and hurdy-gurdy)
Sources: “I Was Angry” and “My Dear Bridesmaids,” two Russian songs from Altai Krai in the heart of Russian Central Asia, as arranged by the Seattle-based Russian folkloric vocal ensemble Juliana and PAVA (www.ethnorussia.com/pava.htm
3. Wind of the World’s Nest (Dennis Rea / Tuvan traditional; lyrics: Galsan Tschinag) 09:56
Dennis Rea (electric guitar, ‘throat guitar’)
Albert Kuvezin (voice)
Dick Valentine (alto saxophone, flute)
Wadim Dicke (electric fretted and fretless basses)
Brian Oppel (drums)
Source: Contains a fragment of the Tuvan traditional song “Baezhin” but otherwise is original music in a Tuvan vein by Dennis Rea.
4. The Fellowship of Tsering (Jampa Tsering, arranged by Dennis Rea) 14:07
Dennis Rea (electric and organ guitars, kalimba)
Greg Powers (dungchen horn)
Albert Kuvezin (vocal)
Dick Valentine (flute)
Steve Fisk (keyboards, sounds rhythms, creative processing)
Daniel Zongrone (drums, percussion)
Tibetan prayer flag and prayer wheel field recordings courtesy of Avosound.
Sources: two songs (titles unknown) by the beloved Tibetan singer-songwriter Jampa Tsering (1960s–1997), from a handwritten cassette purchased in Lhasa by my wife Anne Joiner in 1989.
Recorded 2016–19 in Seattle and Tacoma (USA) and Abakan, Krasnoyarsk and Tomsk (Russia).
Made possible through a generous grant from JSCC’s Artist Support Program. www.jackstraw.org