John Cumming (1948 – 2020)

Over the last two days there have been written many heartfelt and beautiful words about John Cumming, who passed much to early last Sunday, May 17th. There is not much to add to these condolences, but one’s own memories: I first met John in the early 1990’s after having moved to London to work as International Jazz Marketing Director for PolyGram, which then became Universal Music. Both moving in the jazz circle, we met and started chatting about the state of jazz, the business, new acts … and were hanging out at gigs at Ronnie Scott’s and other venues. We started to discuss the acts I was working with and with which and how to work together, built them for the UK market … an often-frustrating undertaking in a pop-oriented marketplace, but always continuing. What struck me immediately when meeting John was his incredible passion for music and his understanding that without the creative forces, without the artists, there would be nothing. This got him the respect of his peers as well as the artists he worked with. Later on we not only met in London, but as well in New York at APAP or Jazz Congress or at gigs during Winter Jazz, then at jazzahead (where below picture with Austrian sax player Wolfgang Puschnig and myself was taken in 2016) and at North Sea Jazz occasionally. John and Puschnig knew each other as well from way back – in 1991 Puschnig made a record called ‘Alpine Aspects’ which combined a 16 piece traditional Austrian brass band and a jazz group and John brought the whole gang over to London for a gig …. That album was one of the early ones in my career as executive producer …

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When Serious started the Take Five educational program for young jazz musicians John invited me to come and talk about the music business from the perspective of a major label and since then I have done most of them … the English ones, the Scottish, the Swiss and the two European ones. In the end I talked about the music business and labels in general, not being connected to Universal anymore and we did the session as a kind of interview, were John would ask me the questions and tried to get answers that gave the young audience something to take away with them. So, the lecture became more like a chat between friends and still had lots of info about the music business included. These events also gave us time to talk and have a drink together. They are unforgettable memories for me. Below photo was taken at the end of the 2016 Take Five Switzerland sessions and shows beside the musicians Julie Campiche, Yilian Canizares, Yeal Miller, Nils Fischer, Joel Graf, Christoph Irniger, Manuel Troller and Mandla Mlangeni as well promoter Jan Ole Otnaes, manager and agent Mike Bindraban, Serious staff Martel Ollerenshaw, Amy Pearce, John and myself.

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John played different roles for different people: husband, father, colleague, friend, agent, manager, mentor, educator, etc., but first of all he was a wonderful, warm, passionate human being, open for new adventures and always having an hear for upcoming new talent. I truly loved working with him, talking and thereby learning, listening to gigs together with a drink in our hands. Last night I had a glass of a wonderful single malt whisky, a 1990 Bladnoch with the name ‘Jam Session’ – a gift from my friend Wolfgang Puschnig and I silently toasted to the life of John Cumming, who will be sorely missed, but he will always be in my memory. R.I.P. my friend.

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