Who We Are

Member Details

Dennis Palmer

Chattanooga, Tennessee
United States

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For Twenty-two years, the Shaking Ray Levi Society (SRLS) has given Chattanooga and the world many surprises—all of them good ones. A non-profit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to challenging audiences with extraordinary music (with a concentration on free improvisation), film, and performance art, the SRLS is responsible for bringing hundreds of diverse and celebrated artists to Tennessee and the Southeast.

The SRLS has always demonstrated a commitment to the Chattanooga community, working in conjunction with Allied Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Southern Arts Commission. For years, the SRLS has led music education workshops in area schools and has provided thousands of children an outlet for their creativity through hands-on musical experiences. Film production is also taught to students of all ages, in various locations, allowing learners to gain experience in every part of the filmmaking process. A recent partnership with The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP) was formed, extending the SRLS’s reach to people with developmental and physical disabilities using music therapy.

The seed for the SRLS began as a vision to nurture Chattanooga as a center for improvisational music. The Society quickly evolved and grew, building momentum and branching out into different areas. Among the many events coordinated by the SRLS are the FAH-SAH-LAH-CAH-LO FESTIVAL at folk artist Rev. Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden (9/87), INCUS WEEK at the Hunter Museum (9/95), and the ALL TALK SERIES featuring spoken word readings by NPR’s poets and novelists (12/93). In 1988, the SRLS began a weekly radio show on WUTC FM 88.1, Outside Pleasures, which for seven years exposed listeners to a diverse mix of spoken word and off-center music from around the globe.

To name just a few -British guitar legend Derek Bailey, experimental storyteller/violinist Laurie Anderson, Naked City and Masada saxophonist/composer John Zorn, NPR commentators David Sedaris, David Greenberger and Andrei Codrescu, the enigmatic Cat Power, avant-jazz master Amy Denio, art rockers Fred Frith and Chris Cutler, the one-of-a-kind pop act Danielson, former Slint and Tortoise guitarist David Pajo, and jazz non-conformist Anthony Braxton.

Also, the SRLS has presented many great world musicians & dancers in Chattanoooga such as: renowned Japanese Butoh dancer Min Tanaka, traditional Indian violinist L. Shankar, master of the Ghatam V. Vinayakram, African Kora player and Griot Foday Mussa Suso, Moroccan Gnawa trance musician Hassan Hakmoun, and the Tibetan Monks of the Drepung Loseling Institute.

Strongly supportive of the local film community, the SRLS has co-produced several utterly unique cinematic works in recent years, including the award-winning documentary A Man Named Pearl about the astounding topiary artist Pearl Fryar, the PBS-broadcasted documentary He Who Is Blessed directed by Chris Barrett, Jarrod Whaley’s silent feature-length film Telesthesia, the stop-motion animated short Anti-Arktikos by Judith Mogul.

“Only in our country are our children not receiving the benefits of the dynamic energies taking place in our culture and in the heritage of our culture…and so, the work of the Shaking Ray Levi Society (in my opinion) is very important because they are seeking to provide an alternative to the marketplace dynamics.” – composer, saxophonist, and MacArthur Fellow Anthony Braxton

“Whenever anything interesting happens in the arts in this town, there’s a good chance that the Shaking Ray Levi Society will have something to do with it.” – novelist Barry Graham, Chattanooga Pulse


THE SHAKING RAY LEVIS (founded in 1986) is an ongoing collaboration of musicians with a common interest in improvisation. The project was conceived by DENNIS PALMER and BOB STAGNER. They use synthesizers (analog & digital), MoogerFoogers, samplers, vocals and percussion to achieve their Ole' Timey Avant-Garde sound.

They are the first American group to have recorded for INCUS RECORDS, the record label of British guitarist DEREK BAILEY. Additionally, they have performed and recorded with REVEREND HOWARD FINSTER, MIN TANAKA, DAVID GREENBERGER, FRED FRITH, AMY DENIO, JOHN ZORN, BORBETOMAGUS, TOM CORA, STEVE BERESFORD, J.D. PARRAN, FRANK PAHL, LADONNA SMITH, DAVEY WILLIAMS, GINO ROBAIR, ROGER TURNER, EUGENE CHADBOURNE, TONY OXLEY and DEREK BAILEY, as well as with many other critically acclaimed artists.

Also in 1986, Palmer and Stagner co-founded THE SHAKING RAY LEVI SOCIETY. The SRL Society is the South's first and oldest "501C3" non profit organization dedicated to the promotion of free-improvisation throughout the region. The SRL Society is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to challenging audiences with extraordinary music, film, and performance art, and is responsible for bringing hundreds of diverse and celebrated artists to Tennessee and the Southeast.

The Shaking Ray Levis have performed internationally on the BBC, at Quebec's International Festival de Musique Actuelle, Newfoundland's Sound Symposium, London's Company Week, and Denver's ReThink Conference.

Furthermore, their educational outreach program has been presented in many public schools throughout the U.S. The group has been awarded grants by the British Arts Council, Meet the Composer, and several regional organizations.

Incus Records released the Duo's first and second CD's, "False Prophets or Dang Good Guessers" in 1993 and "Short in the U.K." in 1997 with drummer Roger Turner and keyboardist Steve Beresford. Although they are on many compilations, their first and only vinyl release is a quintet with Borbetomagus, a release which features Palmer's artwork on a limited edition Picture Disc.

Their 1997 CD "Boss Witch" features collaborations with J.D. Parran, Davey Williams, Frank Pahl, Mary Richards, and Steve Beresford. Palmer and Stagner can be heard on Shaking Ray Records' "Live at Lamar's," a 1999 recording of a live performance with Derek Bailey.

In 2003, Palmer & Stagner teamed up with NPR commentator and DUPLEX PLANET publisher DAVID GREENBERGER, with KENNY PALMER and FRANK PAHL, on PelPel's "Mayor of the Tennessee River." 2007 brings the joint Solponticello/Shaking Ray Records release of "ASAP Wings"; a live recording of Palmer, Stagner and KILLICK Erik Hinds of Athens, Georgia.

Review of "False Prophets or Dang Good Guessers (INCUS RECORDS)...The Levis are accomplished masters of the warp-speed sound bite: 26 of them here, set out like a board of weird sushi. Though most clock in at between 30 seconds and pop-single length, there are two more substantial tracks in the middle of the set- the combative "All Against All" and "Lady Ms Girl Shine"- which confirm that this isn't just a comic put on. -Penguin Guide to Jazz

Review of "Live at Lamars -The Shaking Ray Levis w/ Derek Bailey" (SRR)..."The Shaking Ray Levis have an aptitude for sounding fresh and free from cliché while not appearing self-consciously outlandish. They accommodate Bailey's singular playing in ways that set his idiosyncrasies to advantage, cast them in a relatively unfamiliar light and whet the appetite for more." -The Wire

Review of "A.S.A.P. Wings" (Solponticello/SRR)...It captures an evening where lyrics are not sung, but spoken in tongues, dissonant noises fire like stray bullets, and an intense chemistry oozes from every stuttering sound. These songs do not resemble any conventional take on pop or rock music, nor is it a discernable breed of jazz or noise for the sake of noise. There are few acts comparable to the SRL's operating anywhere around the world, so wrapping your head around the group's sound is not easily done. A.S.A.P. Wings gives a distinctively Southern accent to improv that defies the urbane angst of free jazz in favor of a deranged rural lurch. -Chad Radford, Georgia Music Magazine

FOR MORE INFO ON SRLS RECORDINGS PLEASE Go to the online store: shakingray.com



· educator
· performer


· SRL/T.R.A.P. (The Rythmic Arts Project)
· presentations
· residencies
· clinics
· concerts