Amy Duncan is an American musician and writer who has been living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for over a decade.
She began her musical career in Newtown, Connecticut, USA at age 15, when she gave up her classical piano lessons and taught herself how to play jazz. By the time she was 16, she was gigging around the area with local bands.
After a year and a half at Boston University, studying languages and literature, she dropped out, got married, had a baby, and became part of the avant-garde jazz scene, led by saxophonist Sam Rivers.
Some years later, after she split up with her second husband and was the mother of two daughters, she gradually worked her way into a job as music writer for The Christian Science Monitor. But jazz was still uppermost in her mind, and in 1981 this led her to move to New York City, the jazz mecca for all aspiring jazz musicians.
After around three years of gigging around Manhattan as a solo pianist and in duos and trios, Amy decided to form a larger band to try out her skills as a writer and arranger. She soon formed an unusual ten-piece ensemble that consisted mostly of brass instruments, including two euphoniums and a tuba. This band, which she named Brass Tacks, played at numerous venues around the city, including the Blue Note and the Knitting Factory.
In 1990 Amy started to take an interest in Brazilian music, especially samba. She learned Rio-style percussion, and ended up visiting Rio de Janeiro and playing in the percussion sections of several samba schools in that city’s famous carnival parades. It wasn't surprising that Amy's love for Brazilian music would rub off on her compositions and arrangements for Brass Tacks.
In 1999 Amy made a definitive move to Rio de Janeiro, after living there for two years in 1993-4. In 2001 she put together the Brazilian version of Brass Tacks and recorded her first CD, “My Joy,” the following year. After playing numerous shows in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the band became temporarily inactive while Amy worked on her autobiography, “Getting Doown to Brass Tacks” — her first full-length book.
Getting Down to Brass Tacks - My Adventures in the World of Jazz, Rio, and Beyond
by Amy Duncan
In the 1950's a young teenage piano student is given an LP of a jazz pianist and is struck with a major epiphany while listening to his music: this was what she wanted to do with her life! This riveting autobiography of a woman in the world of jazz takes us on Amy Duncan’s adventures as a struggling musician and writer in Boston and New York to her exotic life in Rio de Janeiro