A little more than a year after the death of acclaimed jazz trumpeter and composer Abram Wilson, his former manager and widow Jennie Cashman Wilson has teamed up with EFG London Jazz Festival producers Serious to stage the only London tribute concert in memory of her husband.
The performance, which takes place on November 20 in the Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, will be an opportunity see some of Wilson’s former bandmates from both here and the States celebrating the life of her husband and his music.
Originally from New Orleans, Abram had lived in the UK for 10 years and was working on a number of projects, including a UK tour, when he fell ill and died of cancer in June 2012, aged just 38. The tribute gig, called simply A Tribute to Abram Wilson, will be led by rising star pianist Reuben James and the highly respected drummer Dave Hamblett, both of whom accompanied Wilson to great effect last year. They will be joined by Jason Marsalis [drums], saxophonists Keith Loftis, Peter King and Jean Toussaint, Trevor Mires [trombone], Mark Lewandowski [bass], and a young trumpeter already making his mark in New York, Alphonso Horne.
For Jennie, who has established the Abram Wilson Foundation for Creative Arts to continue her husband’s legacy, the gig will be an emotional one.
She said: “I knew that if I was going to do something in London it had to be really special and include musicians he had played with from both here and the US. Serious were the only ones who would have been able to help make my dream become a reality.
“My heart does hurt a little when I think about the fact that Abram won’t be here to play on the gig as I know it’s going to be an incredible night. It was really tough deciding on whether to book a trumpeter to play Abram’s parts, but in the end I found a young guy from New York who came highly recommended by one of Abram’s heroes, pianist Marcus Roberts.
“The most important thing about this gig is that it’s a chance to highlight the work Abram was doing during the final years of his life. Abram had really started to come into his own as a composer and I wanted to use this performance to show people the kind of musician he had grown into before he died. I truly believe this is something he would have wanted.”
Jennie and the Abram Wilson Foundation have also put together a band for a separate 10-date UK tour, to pay tribute to some of the greatest saxophone players in the history of jazz, including Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson and John Coltrane.
The tour, labeled Saxophone Giants began at the end of October and runs until the start of December. In the band are long-time friend and musical associate from Abram’s New York days, saxophonist Keith Loftis and the much loved, virtuoso tenor player Jean Toussaint, former band member of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. They will be joined by Reuben James [piano], Dave Hamblett [drums] and the young, but extremely accomplished, Mark Lewandowski on double bass.
“This tour is a ‘legacy project’ for the Abram Wilson Foundation,” says Jennie. “It is inspired by last year’s 20-date tour, which Abram and I had worked so hard to organize, but which he never got to see through to the end… I felt it was important to bring some of his band members back together, giving them an opportunity to learn from each other, play some great music and finish what we started.”
FULL TOUR DATES: A TRIBUTE TO ABRAM WILSON & SAXOPHONE GIANTS
27th October, 3PM & 8PM – Workshop & Performance, Calstock Jazz and Blues Festival, Cornwall
14th November, 8:30PM – Watermill Jazz Club, Dorking
16th November, 7:30PM – Bishop Auckland [near Darlington], County Durham
17th November, 8PM – Brighton Dome, Brighton
20th November, 7:45PM – A TRIBUTE TO ABRAM WILSON – Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London
22nd November, 8PM – Fleece Jazz, Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk
23rd November, 5PM – Hull Truck Theatre, Hull
26th November, 9PM – St Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall
28th November, 7:30PM – The Hospital Club, London [Reuben James, Dave Hamblett and Mark Lewandowski only] 30th November, 7:30PM – Taliesin, Swansea, Wales
1st December, 7:30PM – National Centre for Early Music, York
All sets between 45mins – 60mins depending on venue.
A Tribute to Abram Wilson: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/a-tribute-to-abram-wilson-77258
Saxophone Giants Tour: http://abramwilson.com/events/