Primary Instrument: Trumpet
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. Abram'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, Abram went on to play drums. At nine, Abram 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, Abram 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, Abram 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 Abram 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, Abram graduated from both schools and was ready to take on new parts of the world.
At 17, Abram 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. Abram went on to study at the world renown 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 Abram became closely involved with Young Audiences, an organization which brought professional artists to schools to perform and conduct workshops for children. Abram 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, Abram 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, Abram 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 Abram to start working as regular member of various Dune artists’ bands leading to Abram 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 (DUNECD08); with 2002 Mercury/MOBO Award winner, Denys Baptiste on Let Freedom Ring! (DUNECD010); with the awesome soul-jazz vocalist, Juliet Roberts; and the award-winning jazz/ska big band, Jazz Jamaica All Stars.
As well as being the hottest trumpeter to hit these shores for decades, Abram is 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.
An amazing, multi-faceted performing artist, Abram 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, he has developed an inspirational education workshops programme which can be tailored to meet the needs of all age groups and abilities. He is absolutely fantastic with kids and young people, being young at heart himself, and is great with adults too, especially when it comes to reconnecting them with the fun-loving youngster in them!
In October 2004, Abram launched his career as a solo artist with the release of his debut album for Dune, Jazz Warrior (DUNECD011) featuring some of the brightest young talent on the UK scene: Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), Neil Charles (double bass), and Shaney Forbes (drums) � all graduates of the acclaimed Tomorrow’s Warriors collective founded by veteran bassist, Gary Crosby; Andrew McCormack (piano) � also a TW graduate and pivotal member of Denys Baptiste’s award-winning ensembles; and Patrick Clahar (tenor sax/flute), known mostly for his work with the Jazz Warriors, Incognito, and Bill Bruford’s Earthworks.
Abram and his band supported the release of his album with an impressive UK tour, receiving immense critical and public acclaim, with critics marking him out for major success.
Jazz Warrior resoundingly demonstrated Abram’s acute sense of both tradition and changing times, and seamlessly blends jazz with hip hop, RnB and New Orleans grooves. “I called the album Jazz Warrior because it’s about finding the inspiration and the energy to overcome any obstacles that might stand in your way as far as playing this music is concerned,” he explains. “You have to be a warrior to get through. It’s somebody who won’t stop pushing, who won’t give up on the music he loves… no matter what.” A highly accessible and successful crossover album with several radio-friendly tracks, Jazz Warrior was an outstanding debut for this charismatic and engaging young artist who has everything going for him: great talent, great looks, and a great vibe!
Hip hop remixes by Seulja of three tracks from the Jazz Warrior album are to be made available exclusively for online download through reputable online distributors such as I-Tunes, Napster, Sony Online, and others.
Also in 2004, Abram 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 Abram leading on several education projects in the UK and overseas for children and young people. Feedback from these projects has been tremendous, with all clients praising Abram for his fun, intelligent but thorough approach to music education and his special ability to inspire students and teachers alike.
In 2005, Abram 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, Abram 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, Soweto was unable to play saxophone and so played piano instead, leaving Abram 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, Abram was appointed Assistant Artistic Director for Tomorrow’s Warriors. Working alongside the Artistic Director, Gary Crosby, Abram 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 programme.
In April 2006, Abram 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. The distinguished panel of judges for the jazz prize were guitarist John Scofield, Glen Barros (CEO/President of Concord Records) and one of Abram’s all-time heroes, the legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins, who judged the submissions on the basis of creativity, originality, lyrics, melody, and composition.
Following a joint commission by the Cheltenham International Jazz Festival (under the Jerwood Rising Star Programme) and Birmingham Jazz to create an extended work for premiere at the Festival in 2006, Abram developed a brand new work entitled Ride! � Ferris Wheel To The Modern Day Delta. It’s a jazz story that tells of a young man’s journey to self-discovery along a road that leads from his backwater hometown in Mississippi to the fast action and thrills of big city life. Ride! features an explosive 10-piece line-up comprising of three bands in one: DBT (Delta Blues Trio), Londorleans Brass Band (a traditional New Orleans brass band), and the Abram Wilson Sextet performing music and dramatisations that borrow from the traditions of the Delta Blues, straightahead jazz and acoustic hip hop, altogether creating one of the most exciting rides in jazz today.
The world premiere of Ride! on 30 April 2006 in Cheltenham (Everyman Theatre) and the performance at the London Jazz Festival (in the sold-out Queen Elizabeth Hall) in November 2006 brought the audience to their feet in a roaring standing ovation.
Abram has recorded Ride! for release on Dune Records in April 2007 and will tour this new project internationally thereafter. The band will be available in its entirety and/or in the formats of its component parts (DBT, Londorleans Brass Band, or Abram Wilson Sextet).
Ahead of the release, though, Abram takes some time out in February 2007 as one of eight artists selected for the third edition of the Jerwood/PRS Foundation ‘Take Five’ initiative, a programme in which labelmate, Soweto Kinch participated in 2006. The initiative provides funding and support for outstanding young jazz musicians enabling them to take time off from touring to focus fully on developing their craft. Soon after, in March, he performs a live showcase of Ride! at the SXSW Live Music Convention in Austin, Texas.
Also in 2007, Abram collaborates with the acclaimed London Community Gospel Choir on a new project entitled Roll Jordan Roll. It’s little known that the very first public performances of African-American music in Britain took place as long ago as 1873. The Fisk Jubilee Singers � a group of freed slaves from Tennessee � became a national sensation during the following decade, drawing vast crowds around the country and invitations to sing for Gladstone and the Royal Family. Queen Victoria was so moved by their voices that she commissioned the Singers’ portrait, which today hangs in Fisk University in Nashville � built with the proceeds of their historic tours.
Roll Jordan Roll celebrates these extraordinary events from the perspective of the Jubilee Singers themselves, incorporating their first hand accounts, their personal stories and their songs. The Jubilee Singers’ sheet music archive of spirituals inspires a suite of new works by Abram Wilson and contemporary gospel composer, Nicky Brown.