Duncan Heining has a rather unusual background for a writer on music. He has been writing about jazz, improvised music and 20th century composition since 1996. Since then, he has written for Avant Magazine, Record Collector, Jazzwise, Jazz UK, All About Jazz, The Independent and The Independent On Sunday.
In 2010, Scarecrow Press published his biography of African-American composer and musical theorist George Russell, George Russell – An American Composer. His second book, Trad Dads, Dirty Boppers and Free Fusioneers – British Jazz 1960-1975 is published this autumn by Equinox Press and tells the story of the period of British jazz that first awakened his love for this music.
During a working life that has included the Probation Service, social work, farms, factories, warehouses, lorry driving and time spent at Her Majesty’s Pleasure – as an Assistant Governor – writing about jazz and free improvisation is now time off for good behaviour. It has been a rich and varied set of experiences, none of which have been wasted and all of which have added meaning and purpose to life.
Duncan gave up his life of crime in 2003, having spent his last few years as Head of Throughcare in a women’s prison in Essex. There he was responsible for drug and alcohol services, groupwork programmes, public and child protection and any other jobs they couldn’t palm off on anyone else.
His academic background is in the social sciences but he has also studied literature, politics, history and philosophy, completing his first degree in Staffordshire in 1977, then an MA at Leicester in 1982 and a degree in psychology through the Open University in 1991.
“It’s funny,” he says, “but everything somehow seems to come together. I find myself constantly referring back to things I studied at different points in my life but also to things I learnt at work. You don’t forget things but they do develop new kinds of meanings and resonances. In a way, it all comes out now in my writing, which I guess is how it should be.”