Based in the UK, Duncan Heining has been writing about jazz for 19 years.
Despite writing for print media for 16 years, I have never seen myself as a journalist. When I parted
company with Jazzwise and Jazz UK in 2012, I had published two books on jazz - George Russell: An
American Composer (Scarecrow) and Trad Dads, Dirty Boppers and Free Fusioneers: British Jazz 1960-
1975 (Equinox) - and had just started writing for All About Jazz. Since then, I have completed my PhD
and recently published Mosaics: The Life and Career of Graham Collier. My old age pension
kicks in in October and as my powers diminish I am forced to concentrate my energies.
I enjoyed writing for Jazz UK and was sorry that association came to an end, though less so in relation to
Jazzwise. However, the one disadvantage of writing for All About Jazz - not being paid - is hugely
outweighed by the advantages. It is an ecumenical church not governed by advertising or tied in to the
cycles of CD/touring promotion to which the jazz business still hitches itself. It is open to writers to use
the space in their own way with minimal editorial interference. It has that commodity that is so rare
these days - trust.
All About Jazz allows me to write about people who rarely make it into jazz print media but who, for my
money, are those making some of the most interesting and challenging music, music that is in the
innovative tradition of modern jazz. All About Jazz allows me to write long and I do write long. But then if
you are writing a career retrospective on Mike Westbrook or Howard Riley or Barry Guy, there is a hell of a
lot of ground to cover.
However, my main energies now go into writing books. The next two will examine the relationship
between jazz and so-called world musics and, assuming the old Jazzheimers can be staved off, my final
book will be a collection of essays on American music and competing identities that will examine jazz but
also rock, folk, country, blues and classical music. Inevitably, much of my writing for AAJ will largely arise
from research for my books.
I do receive emails asking if I would like to review CDs from artists new to me. I always try to reply
positively but I see myself as a music historian and what interests me in music are those artists and
recordings that are able to express clear and strong aesthetic and ethical values. I intend no disrespect
when I say this but I do not really have anything to say about the majority of CDs sent to me. There are
others better qualified than I who are able to cover the work of up and coming musicians.
So, that's my store. I hope you find something of interest inside.
PS We have two cocker spaniels - one is George (Russell), the other is Lester (Young). We have had other
dogs called Lonnie (Johnson), Duke (you need to ask?) and Mingus and a cat called Dexter (Gordon and
C.K. Dexter Haven) and another called Bessie (Smith). Pets deserve cool names and jazz musicians
deserve to have cool pets named after them.
My Jazz Story
Published on: 2016-04-17
My first jazz gig was the Melody Maker Pollwinners' Concert at the Royal Festival Hall in May 1969. The opening act was the
Don Rendell-Ian Carr Quintet, still one of my favourite groups and one of the great ensembles of British jazz. I remember the
moment precisely. Ian Carr came to microphone to take his solo on fluegelhorn bathed in the blue-white spotlight looking sharp
in his suit, white shirt and skinny tie. They were playing a ballad and it was one of those perfect moments where music and the
sheer icongraphy of its presentation coincided. I fell in love with jazz in that instant.
Next up were the John Dankworth Orchestra with Cleo Laine, followed by the Ronnie Scott Band with Kenny Wheeler, John
Surman, Chris Pyne and others including singer Georgie Fame. I remember being left perplexed by a jam session of pollwinners
with Harold McNair, Joe Harriott, Tubby Hayes et al. To this day, I can hear little point in that kind of "Buggin's Turn" jazz but
I'm proud that I saw and heard these greats in the flesh. Finally, the Mike Westbrook Band took the stage. I'd love to pretend
that the 15 year old me was so advanced in his taste that he saw his jazz future in their performance. I hadn't a clue or
reference point to guide me and I felt as angry as many of the audience who catcalled and jeered. That would come later but
this was at least my introduction to avant garde jazz.
The idea that thirty plus years later I would get to interview and write about many of these amazing musicians, would have
frightened me and merely brought on yet another outbreak of teenage acne! Some things, like Mike Westbrook's music, are all
the better when you grow into them. But from the Rendell-Carr Quintet to Ian Carr's Nucleus and then to Miles, Bill Evans and
Trane was a shorter step and I will always be grateful to Ian for that.