From 1969 Denley studied flute with Peter Richardson, at the Sydney Conservatorium, who introduced him to the works of Varese, Fukushima, Messiaen and Berio. He was listening to improvisers such as Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Dolphy, Braxton and Derek Bailey. David Ahern’s Sydney groups Teletopa and AZ Music were influential. In 1983 he studied in Tokyo with shakuhachi master Yamaguchi Goro. While there he played concerts with many improvising musicians. An emphasis on spontaneity, site-specific work and collaboration has been important. He sees no clear distinctions between his roles as instrumentalist, improviser and composer. He has written a chapter on improvisation for the book Experimental Music - audio explorations in Australia, published by UNSW Press, 08. r a d i o His interest in radio continued with many ABC features.
In 2006 he made a radiophonic work from recordings he made in the Budawang mountains south west of Sydney. These recording became the CD, Through Fire, Crevice and the Hidden Valley, this Cd gained an honorary mention in the Prix ARS Electronica in 08. He made Coexistence - a radio manifesto of his ideas about playing music in the Australian bush - for the ABC, from recordings from the Budawangs, in May 08. g r o u p s In the 1980's he was involved with the Relative Band with string player Jon Rose playing in major cities and regional centers in Australia. At ARS Electronica in Linz Austria in 1989 he created an installation with Rik Rue and a live satellite link with Ross Bolleter in Perth Australia, broadcast by ORF. In Oct 2005 Ross and Jim performed a new version for ORF of this link up, The Nonlocal Universe. In 1990 he was a member of Derek Bailey’s Company for a week of concerts in London. Derek also included a paragraph of Jim’s writing about solo improvisation in a revised version of his classic text Improvisation published by the British Library. In 2007 he recorded with Norwegian guitarist Kim Myhr, Systems Realignment. “At 52, saxophonist and flautist Jim Denley is Australia's most important improvising musician, similar in spirit to Ross Bolleter in that his creative language both recognises the symbolic import of colonial detritus ... and also the essential irrelevance of both European art music and American jazz to the Australasian experience... Denley has applied himself to a naturalistic idiom on saxophone and flute that makes Eric Dolphy's moves in that same direction seem tentative....Bolleter has talked about the characteristic effect of Denley's music as a process of instantaneous transformation in which individual sounds don't signify anything other than the processes of change...Denley is after a kind of sonic vernacular that plugs into what can only crudely be called a collective unconscious. He is convinced that our rational and intuitive selves are now in a thoroughly dysfunctional relationship. Music like this helps to realign them.” WIRE MAGAZINE, june 2009, written by Brian Morton. In 2008 and 2009 they performed in Switzerland, Norway, Australia, France, Poland and Austria. They formed the group MURAL with Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach, and they performed in Houston at the Rothko Chapel in March 2010 as part of a tour of Texas and May 2010 at Victoriaville Canada. They will play in Seattle , Vancouver and California in October, and Stockholm in November. When in Sydney he is deeply involved with the Splinter Orchestra a large improvising ensemble composed of mainly young players. They have recorded a CD and for ABCTV and Radio and developed a number of procedural scores. In March 2009 with collaborators Dale Gorfinkel and Monika Brooks he performed for 10 Days on the Island, the Tasmanian festival. They took audiences on a sound walk on Maria Island National Park, playing in natural settings. He performed at Lizard Rock – Wogarno Western Australia in Sounds Outback in Aril 2010 and at the Seven Thousand Oaks Festival, Heide, Melbourne in June. These events focus on playing outdoors in special sonic environments. m a c h i n e He is interested in what his music instinct might learn from language. From 1989 to 2003 he worked with the text/music group Machine for Making Sense, (Amanda Stewart, Stevie Wishart, Rik Rue and from 89-96 Chris Mann.) Machine has performed in Australia, the USA and Europe, recording for ORF, SFB, ABC and the BBC. In 1999 they performed and created an installation for the opening of the Sydney Opera House Studio in collaboration with visual artist Joan Grounds.