Jazz musician Brian Dunning dies aged 70

The Irish music community is mourning the death of jazz flautist Brian Dunning at the age of 70.

Hailing from Stoneybatter in Dublin, where he grew up alongside jazz singer Honor Heffernan, Dunning was a pioneer of Irish jazz and one of the first to attempt a fusion between jazz and traditional Irish music.

After studying in Ireland with classical flautist James Galway, Dunning was the first Irish jazz musician to study at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston in the late 1970s. He stayed in the United States and built a career there. in the 1980s and early 1990s, performing with the band Nightnoise. The band, which also included guitarist and Bothy Band founder Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and singer Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, recorded a string of well-received albums for Windham Hill Records, including Something of Time (1987) and The Parting Tide (1990 ).

Dunning’s own band, Puck Fair, had two incarnations, the first in New York in the 1980s with Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and percussionist Tommy Hayes. When Dunning returned to Ireland in 1996 he reformed Puck Fair, this time with guitarist Sean Whelan and percussionist Robbie Harris, releasing the critically acclaimed album Forgotten Carnival (2008).

Brian Dunning. Photography: Amelia Stein

Dunning will be fondly remembered in Irish jazz circles for Alone Together, a recording he made during a trip to Ireland in 1979 with the great guitarist Louis Stewart. The album was recorded live at the Peacock Theater and released on Livia Records.

An inveterate collaborator, Dunning also had a long-standing association with American composer and producer Jeff Johnson. He has recorded a number of albums with Johnson, including Eirlandia (2018) and appearing with him on Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York soundtrack in 2002.

He is survived by his wife, artist Fiona Marron, and his sons Julian, Jack and Gordy.