TRIBUTES AND MEMORIES FOUR YEARS ON: Abram Wilson (1973-2012) – (St James Studio, June 14th)

Abram Wilson
Photo credit: Benjamin Amure 

Today 9th June 2016 marks a sad anniversary. Abram Wilson passed away on this day in 2012. His memory is being celebrated by a concert in aid of the Foundation set up in his name. “An Evening of Jazz Celebrating the Abram Wilson Foundation” (LINK) is on Tuesday 14th June at St James Studio. 

We also remember him here in a series of vivid memories and heartfelt tributes, mainly from fellow musicians who were close to him. With sincerest thanks to Abram’s widow Jennie Cashman Wilson, the driving force behind the Foundation. 


“It still feels really strange knowing that Abram isn’t here. Abram was first and foremost a dear friend with the biggest heart. His huge appetite for life and music is what I think gravitated people towards him. I will always remember his passion for sharing music with children and anyone who was around. Watching his ability to walk out on stage and light up a room full of energetic kids will always stick out in my mind. I had the great opportunity to be part of his first working quintet when he arrived here in New York and that was truly a pleasure. I think what I really miss most about Abram is his passionate drive for greatness and his integrity.”

Keith Loftis is a tenor saxophonist based in NYC. He is currently working on his new trio recording as well as The Baylor Project and the Kenyatta Beasley Septet.


“I met Abram when I was 17 years old when he was leading a workshop in Birmingham.  He took me under his wing and asked me to join his band. We went on tour around the jazz circuit and it was amazing for me to learn and gain experience from one of the best around and someone who had always been a great inspiration to me.

During that time Abram became more than just a bandleader, he was my best friend, my big brother, and my mentor.  He taught me about swing, blues, the history of the music, fearlessness, respect, passion, hard work, dedication, patience, how to be an inspiring teacher, the importance of passing on your skills to others.

Abram is one of the reasons I’m doing what I’m doing today and it was a privilege to have been a part of the message that he represented through his work.” 

Reuben James is a pianist and also a patron of the Abram Wilson Foundation. Having spent the last three years touring with Sam Smith, he  is currently recording with Soweto Kinch as well as working on his own projects KINGDM, Two Leaves and a recent recording with Roy Ayers.


“Since first meeting Abram I immediately saw his passion for the music. At the time I was at Guildhall still studying and he was an important figure for most of us students. My best memory of Abram was playing with him in Jazz Jamaica in Exeter, it was one of my first professional gigs in the UK. I didn’t know who he was but I remember him getting ready for the gig, ironing his shirt and it just made me think, ‘Wow, this guy is special. I don’t know who he is but he’s special’ and then he killed it at the gig. So my best memory of Abram is playing with someone who was serious about what he did and in control of his instrument and the tradition, and a great accent too!

Do I miss him four years on? Obviously the world of jazz in London is totally different without Abram because he would always attract a very special group of people around him, especially the up and coming generation and there’s a lack of that now. There’s not enough people being Abram Wilson, there’s a need for Abram Wilsons. So of course I miss Abram and I’m just sorry I didn’t get a chance to play with him as much as I wanted to.

When he passed it was an important turning point in my life as a musician because I was floating a bit. It was my first year out of school and in a way losing Abram made me reflect on my future and think about what was next. Abram is sorely missed still, of course. He’s in my heart and I’m very grateful for what he did for me and all the other musicians here in London.” – 

Pedro Segundo is a drummer and percussionist with Kansas Smitty’s, Judith Owen and Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio. Pedro is also working own project, Solo Segundo.


Abram Wilson at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival 1st May 2006
Photo credit and © Tim Dickeson

 I always liked this picture of Abram, he was such a nice guy he always had time for a chat and always had a smile, he just so laid back….

Tim Dickeson has been a photographer for nearly 40 years, working for Newspapers, Magazines and as a commercial studio photographer. His music pictures have appeared in most UK national papers as well as magazines in more than a dozen countries.


‘When I first met Abram we were playing with Julian Joseph’s big band and it was obvious to me during the following few hours the kind of person I would later become friends with. The boundless and infectious energy, his unwavering focus and that killer smile all demanded ones  attention.

Abe was always ready and willing to help and guide others who needed it but was also not too proud to ask for help when necessary. He was all about the music and his attention to detail was fast becoming legendary, and he would gather like minded musicians around him to accommodate this and facilitate his goals.

Abe was an extremely talented and hugely driven musician from whom I always felt nothing but warmth and respect and being frustratingly succinct here, as was his life I can only say I shall always remember him with great admiration and affection. RIP my friend.”

Kevin Robinson is a trumpeter, composer, and musical director. He is currently Musical Director for Jazz Jamaica, and on tour with Simply Red.


“I first met Abram at the Sunday jam sessions at the Jazz Cafe in Camden. A lot of people of my generation met him there for the first time. This would’ve been around the year 2000. We didn’t get to properly know each other until later when I started to work on a few projects here & there with him. We became good friends & looking back I think our friendship was principally based on him admiring my sense of humour & what I’d like to think of as frank honesty & I to his overall character which consisted of many positives; his humour, a want to help others, positivity, a great “can do” attitude, relentless motivation & what I’d simply call his craziness. We shared a hell of a lot of comical stories with each other & laughing at these together was a huge part of our friendship.

When I think back on my relationship with him I remember him mainly as a friend rather than a colleague, despite working with each other a great deal. We were firstly friends & playing music together in a professional context was simply something we happened to do. One of the main features of our friendship that I remember was him calling me at any hour for a chat & when I say any hour I mean it. He seemed to value my opinion the same way I did his & would get in touch at anytime to hear what I had to say about something. We discussed many topics we saw as important in great depth & both seemed to benefit from each other’s advice & insight. In a working context we both drove each other up the wall on the odd occasion, as people do when working closely together. But Abram was impossible not to forgive, perhaps because he was impossible not to warm to; he always meant well.

I was & will always be stunned by his sudden illness & even more sudden passing. Unfortunately I don’t remember the last time I saw him, but luckily I have an abundance that I do remember. We laughed with each other & at each other in equal measure. We poked fun at each other, got mad at each other but always had each other’s backs regardless. I miss him dearly & will always remember him fondly, it’s impossible to do otherwise. I wish I could tell him all that’s happened since he’s been gone. The conversation’s way overdue & I often forget why. I find it most peculiar that he’s not here; it’s just not like him.” 

Binker Golding is a tenor saxophonist. The duo Binker & Moses have won several awards in the past year, including a MOBO, 2 Jazz FM awards, and a Parliamentary Jazz Award.

Abram Wilson as actor in the play In the Red and Brown Water
at the Young Vic in 2008 (review)


It was four years ago that I was in New York when I received the news about Abram Wilson. I wrote this following note.

“My morning was rocked today when I received the news that trumpeter Abram Wilson had died. I was shocked, stunned, and saddened by this news. Abram was born in New Orleans, LA and he attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) in the late 80’s-early 90’s. His class included such musicians as Nicholas Payton, Adonis Rose, Jason Stewart, and many others. My father had a jazz camp at UNO in the summer of 1990 and it was then that I first met Abram Wilson. One night, Delfeayo called me and asked if I wanted to see the NOCCA Jazz Ensemble at Snug Harbor. When we went, the group consisted of pianist Dwight Fitch, bassist Jason Stewart, drummer Adonis Rose, and trumpeter Abram Wilson. We enjoyed the show and were pleasantly surprised by the different tunes they were playing.

After Abram graduated, I didn’t see him very much. I know he went to Ohio and then Rochester but then I lost track of him. At some point in 2007 I remembered Abram and decided to look him up online. I discovered that he was living in London and making records. I even purchased the album “Jazz Warrior” and loved what I was hearing. Shortly afterward, I was able to catch up with Abram on Facebook. On November 16th 2009, I played a show at Wigmore Hall in London, England with Marcus Roberts and Abram came backstage. It was the first time I had seen him in about 18 years. Later he joined us at a jam session at Ronnie Scott’s. It was great playing with Abram again. We kept in touch and he asked me to play with him for a Christmas concert he did in December 2011. I had a great time catching up with him about New Orleans and playing his music. The last time I saw him was when I returned with Marcus to London in March 2012 and Marcus invited Abram to play with him on a song during a set at Ronnie Scott’s. We all had a great time.

A few weeks ago, I did receive an e-mail from Abram stating that he had to cancel a few shows because of illness and I didn’t think much about it. It was today that I found out here that Abram had died of cancer. It really shocked me and put me in a sad state as I realized that one of my great musical friends was gone. The one positive on this sad day is that I did get to play with Abram before he left us and that is a privilege. I was able to experience his positive energy not only in his music but as a person. It is this energy that he possessed that we all need more of. R.I.P. Abram Wilson. You will be sorely missed.”

I was playing the Blue Note that night with Bela Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio. It was a painful irony since Abram sat in with Marcus, bassist Rodney Jordan, and myself and few months previously in London. When I broke the news to them, they couldn’t believe it. Well, I knew Abram’s spirit had to be around because the next day, I had to fly back to New Orleans. Who do I see on the airplane but trumpeter Mark Breaux, a member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Ironically, Mark went to NOCCA with Abram and was a part of that same class of great musicians.

When I think back after 4 years, I still miss Abram’s enthusiasm and belief not only in music but life in general. That spirit came through in his music and that’s why it was so fun to not only listen to but to be a part of. It’s something all of us could use and I try to live by that example in my own life.

I’ll always be thinking of you, Abram Wilson.” 

Jason Marsalis – vibes and drums – leads the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet and is a member of the Marcus Roberts Trio.


It stands to reason that the longer we live on this planet the greater we can be affected by others, and the more people we stand to lose as life goes on. Perhaps one of the bittersweet privileges of living to old age.

Under the ‘normal’ (if not perhaps ideal) run of things, we’d achieve at least something of what we previously dreamed about, we’d in turn affect other people and parents would depart the earth before their children. It doesn’t always go his way…

So when someone goes ‘before their time’ it is particularly poignant. You can’t help thinking what if? What was next? There is no doubt that Ab had all manner of grand designs running through his head. He was already spreading his skill and passion way beyond trumpet playing into composition on every scale, acting, directing and producing, from new solid ground in his personal life and always finding time to inspire the next generation of any age and stage.

When thinking about Ab and other stars that shone so brightly but too briefly, rather than remember in sadness, I’m reminded what a privilege it is to create and communicate through music and that I should keep striving on while I can. –

Jason Yarde is a composer, arranger, producer, musical director and saxophonist. Currently working on the debut album of his largish ensemble ACOUTASTiC BOMBASTiC – while feeding his kids!

– – – – – – 

“An Evening of Jazz Celebrating the Abram Wilson Foundation”
Tuesday 14th June from 8pm until approx 10pm 
St James Studio, 12 Palace Street, London, SW1E 5JA.

LINK: St James Studio Bookings 

Categories: miscellaneous

Leave a Reply