Review: Abram Wilson Philippa

Abram Wilson Quartet: Philippa(Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street, 12th April 2011. Review by Rosie Hanley, Photo Credit: Roger Thomas)

On Tuesday night Abram Wilson premiered his latest project, Philippa, a collection of compositions celebrating the life of pianist Philippa Duke Schuyler. Philippa was a child prodigy born in Harlem to a noted black journalist and a domineering white mother. She was an incredible classical musician, roving journalist and a 1940s and 50s racial icon.Her life was tragically cut short by a helicopter accident over Vietnam in 1967. The book Compositions in Black and White by Kathryn Talalay goes further into her story.

Abram was joined by new band line up of Stephen Pringle on piano, Yuri Galkin on double bass and Matt Fisher on drums. The quartet opened with ‘Adventures in Black and White’ which represents Philippa’s mixed-race life. As always Abram’s playing was elegant and his affinity for the trumpet and immense technique were displayed through his straight ahead jazz style. A polite, well-prepared host, he narrated the evening with charm.

The rhythm section drifted in and out of a steady groove and at times seemed a little unsettled, but this unevenness is sure to get ironed out, if, as is to be hoped, Philippa gets the repeat performances it deserves. But the excellent extended piano solo from Pringle on ‘Wolves’ complemented by sympathetic drum fills from Fisher, however, proved what the band are capable of when they let go. ‘The Harlemites’, a composition representing the community that Philippa grew up in, was the highlight of the evening, expertly telling a story through the music.

The quartet began the second set with ‘Steak and Potatoes’ and ‘The Cogdells’ written in dedication to Philippa’s divergent parents. ‘The Cogdells’ was rougher than the other compositions, with dynamic motives and a melody reminiscent of ‘Caravan’.

Abram’s tender vocals delivered heartfelt lyrics on ‘Longing for Love’ leaving the audience moved before the evening came to an end with the powerful ‘Hidden Blues’, another excellent composition featuring fantastic solos from Pringle and Wilson.

It was encouraging to see a somewhat forgotten female musician being celebrated and brought to prominence through jazz, even more so, to see a male musician acknowledging the difficulties some women have faced and do face in the genre. Abram proved himself not only as an exceptionally talented trumpeter, but also as an accomplished composer, and an ambassador both for jazz and for a neglected woman. A promising premiere.


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1 reply »

  1. Nice, informative review. Got me to check out the site, the project and the recording/photos from the session.

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