Abram Wilson, Soweto Kinch & band
@ Queen Elizabeth Hall
19 November 2006
Click an image to enlarge.
Abram Wilson biography
Trumpeter/ composer/ bandleader / educator/ actor Abram Wilson
died of cancer on 9 June 2013. He continued performing as long as
he could, despite acute pain until his last gig in Teignmouth, Devon
on May 24.
Born in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1975, Abram Wilson was raised along
with his four brothers and one sister in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The eldest of six children, the entire family including mother,
Doris Wilson, and father, Willie C Wilson Jr, had some experience
in music. Wilson’s first inspiration and introduction to music
was at the age of five when listening to his father play the guitar
and to recordings which his father would play. Soon after being
bought a snare drum for Christmas, Wilson went on to play drums.
At nine, Wilson received his first trumpet and after being taught
his first note by his mother, he immediately began learning songs
from the radio and developing his own method of ear training.
Starting with his first instructor, Lester Wright, Wilson quickly
became the most advanced in the class, surpassing many of the older
students. At 13, he began to display the ability to lead, and was
elected to front his 75-piece school band as drum major. That same
year, Wilson auditioned for the New Orleans Center For Creative
Arts (NOCCA), a school specialising in jazz and classical music,
among other art forms, and responsible for producing artists such
as Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr, Donald
Harrison, Delfayo Marsalis, and Nicholas Payton, all of whom graduated
from the school. Whilst there Wilson studied under the tutelage
of Clyde Kerr Jr, Ronald Benko, Dr Burt Breaud, and band director,
Augustus Walker at O Perry Walker Sr High School, all of whom would
further shape his musical direction and raise it to a new level.
In 1991, Wilson graduated from both schools and was ready to take
on new parts of the world.
At 17, Wilson was teaching trumpet privately and soon earned a
music scholarship to Ohio Wesleyan University. Here, he studied
classical trumpet with Larry Griffin and at 22, graduated with a
bachelor’s degree in music education, qualifying him to teach
both choral and instrumental music from kindergarten to college
aged students. Wilson went on to study at the world-renowned Eastman
Conservatory in Rochester, New York where he attained his masters,
studying jazz performance and composition with Ralph Alessi, Mike
Cain, and Fred Sturm, and classical trumpet with Barbara Butler.
It was also during this time Wilson became closely involved with
Young Audiences, an organization which brought professional artists
to schools to perform and conduct workshops for children. Wilson
soon found himself performing for groups of up to 250, dealing with
subjects like jazz history, groove, music theory, improvisation,
and music composition. These workshops proved to be amazingly successful
in Rochester, Cleveland and New York and inspired a number of students
to pursue careers in music.
Upon graduating from Eastman, Wilson moved to New York where he
started his own band incorporating both his vocal and trumpet skills,
and continued to promote music education throughout the schools
there. By now he was regularly performing with the Roy Hargrove
Big Band and with rhythm and blues legend, Ruth Brown, appearing
on her “Good Day for the Blues” release in 1999.
Coming to London in 2002, Wilson quickly made links to some of
the best artists here and, before long, was booked to appear as
part of the Julian Joseph Big Band. A chance meeting with the directors
of Dune Records at a jam session at London’s Jazz Café
set the wheels in train for Wilson to start working as regular member
of various Dune artists’ bands leading to Wilson being signed
to the label in late-2003. He appears and currently tours with fellow
Dune recording artists: Soweto Kinch on the 2003 Mercury/ MOBO Award
winning album, “Conversations With The Unseen; with 2002 Mercury/MOBO
Award winner, Denys Baptiste on “Let Freedom Ring!”
with soul-jazz vocalist, Juliet Roberts; and the award-winning jazz/ska
big band, Jazz Jamaica All Stars.
As well as being an excellent trumpeter, Wilson is also an excellent
singer/songwriter whose voice is a finely wrought instrument enabling
him to cover all styles of music, from jazz scat to rap, from ballads
to boogaloo, RnB to hip hop, reggae and ska to soul. As a composer,
he has a broad range of skills, being able to write for string orchestra
and big band, as well as small ensembles. He also regularly works
with the hip/RnB/soul production team, Seulja, where he primarily
undertakes vocal and instrumental arranging.
Wilson is also an experienced music teacher and educator. He was
Head of Music at a London school, a post he held for two years and,
being keen to maintain his role as an educator.
In 2004, Wilson was appointed Artist In Residence for Tomorrow’s
Warriors Ltd – the sister company of Dune specialising in
youth jazz education and professional artist development –
for the period 2004-2007. This appointment has resulted in Wilson
leading on several education projects in the UK and overseas for
children and young people.
In 2005, Wilson was nominated for the BBC Award for Best Band and
for the MOBO Award for Best Jazz Act 2005 (along with label mate
and saxophonist Soweto Kinch).
In August/September 2005, Wilson was special guest with Soweto
Kinch’s band on a 5-date tour of the USA taking in New York
(Charlie Parker Festival in Harlem and The Jazz Gallery in Manhattan),
Philadelphia (Clef Club), Atlanta (the Montreux Festival in Atlanta),
and Chicago (African Festival for the Arts). Due to illness, Kinch
was unable to play saxophone and so played piano instead, leaving
Wilson to take more of a leading role on the tour. Audiences were
clearly impressed as evidenced by the queues to buy his album!
In March 2006, Wilson was appointed Assistant Artistic Director
for Tomorrow’s Warriors. Working alongside the Artistic Director,
Gary Crosby, Wilson is now responsible not only for the company’s
education programme but also for the professional/artistic development
of members of the company’s core bands, and the live music
In April 2006, Wilson was pronounced winner of the top prize in
the Jazz Category of the prestigious International Songwriting Competition
in Nashville, TN beating off competition from almost 1,000 entries
from 29 countries with his outstanding track, Monk, taken from his
Jazz Warrior album.
Wilson is a performer with astounding drive and energy. He continues
to explore new avenues - combining gospel, soul, blues, jazz and
hip-hop, producing music with a fresh exciting edge.
Soweto Kinch biography
Born in London, England on 10 January 1978 to a Barbadian father
and British-Jamaican mother, Soweto Kinch is one of the most exciting
and versatile young musicians to hit the British jazz scene in recent
He first became interested in music at the tender age of eight,
playing clarinet at primary school. He quickly developed a fondness
for the alto saxophone and was given his first instrument when he
was nine. After meeting Wynton Marsalis four years later he discovered
and became passionate about jazz, first concentrating on piano and
later, in his teens, focusing on alto saxophone.
His family had a strong artistic influence on him, his father being
a playwright and his mother an actress. Having such a theatrical
background exposed him to performance and meant that he was often
surrounded by musicians and other artists such as jazz tap dancer
Will Gaines and percussionist/bebop vocalist Frank Holder.
Kinch is essentially a self-taught musician who has supplemented
his musical education by gathering information from books and transcribing
jazz recordings. He has also been fortunate to attract the attention
of two of the most important jazz luminaries in Britain, saxophonist
Courtney Pine OBE and double bassist Gary Crosby, both of whom are
now key mentors. In addition to the alto saxophone, Kinch plays
soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet, and piano.
He also raps and is competent on the computer, using sequencers
such as Cubase, Logic Audio, and Sibelius.
Kinch made the practical decision to become a full time musician
fairly recently. Graduating from Oxford University in 1999 with
a BA in Modern History, he was set to pursue a career in journalism
or to undertake post-graduate studies. However, the offer of a place
within the core band of Tomorrow's Warriors (the development programme
established by Gary Crosby in 1991 to nurture and develop talented
young jazz musicians) and with Crosby's professional bands, Jazz
Jamaica and Nu Troop persuaded him to choose music as a career path.
Kinch’s musical influences are as broad as they are diverse.
He particularly admires Sonny Rollins for his innovative style and
successful appropriation of West Indian music within the jazz canon.
Most recently, Kinch has been influenced by baroque and early classical
music due to an interest he has in the 17th and 18th century black
population of Britain. He is keen to reconstruct the African and
classical influences that this community would have had.
Kinch made his first appearance on record in October 2001 as a member
of the internationally acclaimed Jazz Jamaica All Stars, a 20-piece
big band blending jazz with reggae, ska and other Caribbean rhythms.
In July 2002, Kinch won the inaugural White Foundation International
Saxophone Competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Hot on the
heels of this major award, Kinch picked up the prestigious BBC Radio
Jazz Award for Rising Star 2002 and, as a member of Jazz Jamaica
All Stars, shared in the glory of the BBC Radio award for Best Band
Kinch is pursuing an interest in Theatre. He completed a commission
with NITRO Black Theatre Cooperative in November 2001 for whom he
composed a score for ‘Slamdunk’ (performed at The Contact
Theatre, Manchester). Similarly, he composed the score for a production
in Birmingham, ‘Its Just A Name’ produced by Nu Century
Arts (April 2002) and written by his father Don Kinch.
Kinch’s debut album “Conversations With The Unseen”
was released in 2003. The album won a Mercury Music Prize for An
Album Of The Year and earned him the MOBO Award for Best Jazz Act
2003. Kinch was also announced as the winner of the Peter Whittingham
Award for Innovative Jazz Project the same year.In 2004, Kinch continued
international touring and picked up BBC Radio Jazz Awards for Best
Band and Best Instrumentalist.
Yet another prestigious award came in November 2004, with Kinch
winning the Urban Music Award for Best Jazz Act. All categories
of these awards were nominated and voted for online by the public
and Kinch received a record number of votes!