John Cumming

John Cumming [1948 – 2020]

The recent mourning in the jazz world due to the loss of icons such as McCoy Tyner, Manu Dibango, Lee Konitz, Henry Grimes and Wallace Roney has been tragically compounded by the passing of John Cumming. He was 72 and succumbed to coronavirus, following largely successful treatment for cancer last year.
One of the co-founders of the production company, Serious, that stages the London Jazz Festival and many other musical events, John was a tireless advocate for jazz and the arts in the broadest sense. In fact, he began his career in theatre, when he set up The Pool Theatre in Edinburgh in the late ‘60s before joining South Hill Park Arts Centre in 1973 to programme plays and concerts. He went on to launch the acclaimed Bracknell Jazz Festival then became a production and tour manager for CMN, working with stars such as George Russell, Carla Bley and Charlie Haden.
John’s other work as a curator included the Camden Jazz Week before he set up Serious with John Ellson in the mid ‘80s. Their ambition broadened and the London Jazz Festival was born in the early ‘90s, blossoming into the large-scale international event it is today. John was a driving force behind many of the most cutting edge bills and was greatly respected and trusted by the artists with whom he worked.

Anybody who shared his company invariably emerged with a smile on their face and, if they were switched on, invaluable insights into any number of legends, from Max Roach and Cecil Taylor to Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Don Cherry. John’s genuine love of music, generosity and willingness to give chances to up and coming players and writers – myself included – means he has a special place in the hearts of many. His sparky Scots humour, B.S.-free attitude and general love of life will be sorely missed.
Kevin Le Gendre