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Duncan Heining

Based in the UK, Duncan Heining has been writing about jazz for 19 years.

About Me

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. 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. My main energies now go into writing books. The next two will be a biography of British composer and bandleader Graham Collier and a book on the relationship between jazz and world music. The pieces I have written and will continue to write shall, in the main, focus on providing artist profiles and career retrospectives for British and Continental European (and occasional American) musicians, whose work I admire and who deserve a wider audience. Other articles (and reviews) 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 find writing reviews quite demanding because I put a lot of thought and effort into them. 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 I 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). 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.

My Favorites

  1. Bill Evans Waltz For Debby
  2. Mike Westbrook The Cortege
  3. Olivier Messiaen Des Canyons Aux Etoiles
  4. Miles Davis Bitches Brew
  5. London Jazz Composers Orchestra Ode
  6. Howard Riley The Day Will Come
  7. Ray Russell Live at The ICA
  8. George Russell The Essence Of
  9. Anything by Norma Winstone or Karin Krog