RIP Flautist Brian Dunning

Brian Dunning

RIP Flautist Brian Dunning

Member of Puck Fair and Nightnoise pioneered flute style that mixed jazz and Irish traditional music.

The Irish jazz flautist Brian Dunning has passed away (10 February) aged 70.

From Dublin, Dunning began as a classical flautist and studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music with Doris Keogh. He began playing jazz and won a scholarship to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 1979, on a trip home to Ireland, he recorded the live album Alone Together with guitarist Louis Stewart at the Peacock Theatre.

In the early 1980s, Dunning worked as an orchestral player and session musician in Dublin. He returned to the United States in the mid-80s and formed the experimental jazz/Irish band Puck Fair with Tommy Hayes. Dunning pioneered a flute style that mixed jazz and Irish traditional music, and, along with Mícheál Ó Domhnaill (previously of the Bothy Band), they released Fair Play in 1987, which contained a number of Dunning’s compositions, including ‘McMinimal’s Reel’.

The same year, he joined Nightnoise, which consisted of Tríona and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and violinist Bill Oskay. The band released Something of Time, an atmospheric instrumental mix of Irish, jazz and popular music influences, followed by At the End of the Evening in 1988 and The Parting Tide in 1990.

Dunning returned to Ireland in the 1990s and formed a new version of Puck Fair featuring guitarist Sean Whelan and percussionist Robbie Harris. In 2008, they released Forgotten Carnival, which continued his exploratory cross-genre approach.

From 1992, Dunning collaborated with the US keyboards player Jeff Johnson and released a dozen recordings including Eirlandia (2018). Their track ‘Vows’ from the 2000 album Byzantium was included in the soundtrack for Martin Scorsese’s film Gangs of New York.

In 2017, Dunning, Harris and bass player Paul Moore released the album Blue Sphere Motifs, and in February 2019, the flautist presented a concert at the Arthur’s venue in Dublin titled ‘Fifty Years Fluting’, which featured his jazz and fusion projects. In recent years he also performed at Sligo Jazz, the Hugh Lane Gallery, and in a range of different collaborations.

He is survived by his wife, the artist Fiona Marron, and by his sons Julian, Jack and Gordon. The funeral service will take place at St Patrick and St Brigid’s Church, Clane, Co. Kildare, this Thursday 17 February at 11am and can be viewed here.

Published on 15 February 2022

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