Jazz musician Brian Dunning dies aged 70

Dublin-born flautist was among the first to fuse jazz and Irish traditional music

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

A native of Dublin's Stoneybatter, where he grew up alongside jazz vocalist Honor Heffernan, Dunning was a pioneer of Irish jazz and one of the first to attempt a fusion between jazz and Irish traditional music.

After studies in Ireland with the 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 on in the US and built a career there in the 1980s and early 1990s, performing with the band Nightnoise. The band, which also featured 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, enjoyed 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).


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

An inveterate collaborator, Dunning also enjoyed a long standing association with the American composer and producer Jeff Johnson. He recorded a number of albums with Johnson, including Eirlandia (2018) and appearing with him on the soundtrack to Martin Scorcese's Gangs of New York in 2002.

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