I Shall Miss John Cumming

john cummingI feel immensely sad to hear of John Cumming’s death; he was a good friend and a great colleague.   He had a significant influence on my activity as a promoter.  I think it is particularly sad that John was not able to enjoy the retirement he was so looking forward to and the travel with Ginnie that he was planning.

John leaves great achievements; he played a major role, probably the major role, creating an international jazz scene in London and a touring network of British and international artists in the major UK venues.  He ran the much missed Bracknell Jazz Festival, then the Camden Jazz Festival which paved the way for the London Jazz Festival, now rightly regarded as one of the leading jazz festivals in the world.  He curated major tours for the Arts Council’s Contemporary Music Network (CMN) as part of his role at Serious, the promoting organisation he played a key role in building up along with David Jones and Claire Whitaker.  He also played a major role as a Board member of the Europe Jazz Network (EJN).

It was, however, the trust and liking that musicians had for John that made him the force that he was in the jazz world.  He had the ability to deal with agents and musicians as friends and colleagues who shared the same aspirations for the music.  John was fun to deal with, full of humour and wise about the realities of the jazz world.  I can remember him dealing with many tricky situations, such as problems with PA equipment, late arrival of bands, even the KGB minder who was looking after the Ganelin Trio touring UK from Lithuania when it was still part of the Soviet Union.  It was always clear to me that touring musicians from the USA or other parts of Europe looked forward to meeting and interacting with John, and I can remember, for example, how close he was to Jack DeJohnette and Sonny Rollins, and nearer to home John Surman and Andy Sheppard.

I didn’t always agree with John, for example I never understood his lack of enthusiasm for the Loose Tubes generation, Django Bates, Iain Ballamy et al.    But I had the highest regard for his commitment to the music and I shall greatly miss the ability to catch up with him, to get the inside story on artists’ or agents’ decisions and to chat about who to look out for amongst up and coming players and bands.

I am not sure that the jazz world has ever completely grasped how much John Cumming has contributed to the music.  It is great that he was awarded an OBE in the Honours List a few years ago, but John was not a person prone to self-promotion; he just wanted to make a particular gig or tour work or help a given artist develop his or her career.   He leaves a huge gap, and, as the jazz world recovers from the current crisis, his example will be sorely missed.

3 thoughts on “I Shall Miss John Cumming

  1. Hello Tony, Was shocked to read about the death of John Cummings. Your description of him rings true. He will certainly be missed. I hope you and yours are well. Been too long since our paths crossed. All best wishes, Mark Dresser

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    1. This is a shock to me. Just yesterday I wrote about him for a book in Lithuania about our concert with London Sinfonietta at the London Jazz Festival in 2011. That was John’s idea. He has done so much for me, our trio, and for all of us. He was a wonderful person and friend. Vladimir Tarasov

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      1. Dear Vladimir,

        I know he had a wonderful time with you, touring for the Contemporary Music Network back in the day – it was the source of MANY stories! He always kept an eye on what you were up to, very affectionately. Hence the 2011 concert. All his, and our, love to you and yours,
        xxxxx Ginnie and Kate Cumming

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