Based in the UK, Duncan Heining has been writing about jazz for 24 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 published Mosaics: The Life and Career of Graham Collier (Equinox). My old age pension
kicked in a couple of years ago 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 has allowed 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 book 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. I do feel guilty saying 'no' to musicians that I know and respect when it comes to reviewing
their latest recordings but I will no longer be reviewing CDs or gigs.
Hopefully, there will be a number of articles on musicians coming from my PC over the next few years
that you will find of interest. I ain't gone yet! So, that's my store. I hope you find something of interest
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
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.