Interview by Don Campau


Amy Denio (rhymes with ‘Ohio’ or ‘gennaio’) is a record producer, composer, improviser, singer and multi-instrumentalist. Her main instruments are voice, alto saxophone, clarinet, accordion, electric guitar, and bass, and she’s a budding thereminist. In March, 2015 she was inducted into the Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame in March 2015.

Since 1987 she has collaborated with artists throughout North America, Europe, the Balkans and East Europe, Russia, India, Japan, Taiwan, and South America, going on more than 75 international tours. She’s played festivals, squats, churches, schools, prisons, ruins and one abandoned mercury mine. Denio’s collaborative efforts have been seen and heard at Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Seattle Opera House, Detroit Institute of Art, Venice Biennale, the Roman Theater in Trieste, and on top of 3 Metro Buses in Seattle.

Home-taper since the Dark Ages of Analog, she started her label and publishing company Spoot Music in 1986, with the release of her first cassette, No Bones. Since then, she has recorded & released over 50 cassettes, LPs and CDs, created solo and with an array of international musicians.

Denio’s music was included in the John Cage Retrospective at the 1993 Biennale di Venezia. She has been a long-time collaborator with David Dorfman Dance, receiving a Bessie Award for Composition (NYC) in for her soundtrack to Dorfman’s piece ‘Sky Down,’ and premiering new music at Brooklyn Academy of Music ‘Next Wave’ 2000 series for Dorfman’s piece ‘To Lie Tenderly’. In 2007 she worked for the Dream Community in Taipei for three months, arranging and producing a CD of Taiwanese indigenous and pop songs, performed by 25 teenagers from the Amis Tribe.

She’s a founding member of Ama Trio, Tone Dogs, The Tiptons (formerly Billy Tipton Memorial) Saxophone Quartet, Danubians, Pale Nudes, Lao Tse and The Entropics, and her Italian chamber/kitchen quintet Quintetto alla Busara.

She has toured solo and has collaborated with various groups and musicians such as Tarik Abouzied, Francisco Lopez, Danny Barnes, the Relache Ensemble, Faust, Fred Frith, Matt Cameron, Bill Frisell, Chris Cutler, Guy Klucevsek, Pauline Oliveros, Hoppy Kamiyama, Ronin, and Il Parto delle Nuvole Pesanti. She played alto sax in the horn section of Chuck D‘s Fine Arts Militia at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

She has recorded and toured with Bosnian gypsy-core group Kultur Shocksince 1999. She recorded and toured with Austrian trio Die Resonanz Stanonczi, sang & recorded with The Science Group (Stevan Tickmayer/ Chris Cutler/Fred Frith/Bob Drake, etc) and Curlew, and she has been collaborating with pan-Latin duo Correo Aereo for more than 10 years.

She has scored 2 animated films by Thomas Edward ~ ‘Pangaea’s Brood’ which won ‘Best Animated Film’ at the 1999 NY Underground Film Festival, and ‘Synchrony in Estrus’ which won ‘Strangest Film’ at the 2003 Motion Arts Festival in California. She also scored Jamie Hook’s feature film ‘The Naked Proof,’ which received honourable mention at its premiere in the 2003 Seattle International Film Festival.

Other commissions include music for Italian National Radio, the Berkeley Symphony, The New York Festival of Song, Relache Ensemble, the Austrian chamber octet Die Knodel, choreographers Pat Graney, Victoria Marks, Aiko Kinoshita, Li Chiao-Ping, Cheronne Wong and Carla Barragan, multi-media performance group Run/Remain Ensemble, UMO Ensemble, The Cabiri, and choreographer/actor/clown Lorenzo Pickle.

She has received grants and fellowships from NEA, Meet The Composer, Civitella Ranieri, Seattle Arts Commission, King County Arts Commission, 4Culture, Washington State Arts Commission, Arts Link, Pew Charitable Trust, Artist Trust, Arts International, and from various philanthropists. In 1996 she received Fellowships from both Seattle Arts Commission and Artist Trust. In July/August 2004 she enjoyed her Fellowship at Civitella Ranieri in Umbertide, Italy. In 2008, she received the Artist Trust Paul Good Fellowship to live in County Mayo, Ireland.

On New Year’s Eve, 2006, her Italian band Quintetto alla Busara accompanied French circus Farfaides in the Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples Italy with 10,000 in attendance, broadcast internationally.

She received funding from Meet The Composer to compose the sound track for Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin’s toy theater/puppet piece ‘Who’s Hungry? – Santa Monica’. This work is based on oral histories of ‘food-insecure’ people, and was premiered in Santa Monica, California in January, 2012. Fascinated by ‘unheard voices’, she is now doing research for her new oral history project called ‘Mythunderstandings’ in collaboration with the Tiptons Sax Quartet, which will be first presented in Seattle in January, 2013.

Though mainly self-taught, (both her parents played jazz contrabass) Denio was sponsored by Jazz India to study voice in Bombay in 1997 with Dhanashree Pandit Rai. She has taught workshops on improvisation and composition throughout Europe and the US. In April, 2001, she was invited by Fred Frith to be Rosencranz Artist In Residence at Mills College in Oakland, California.

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