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Guest Post: Jennie Cashman Wilson on Abram Wilson

Time is a funny thing, it comes and goes and before you know it, you’re another year on.

Although life continues, there is an instinctive need to mark the passing of time, especially when it comes to births, marriages and of course deaths.

Over the last year, on the 8th and 9th of each month I have remembered Abram. First it was one month since we married and he passed away; then it was three; my own birthday was six months since he left us; we reached 11 months just a few weeks ago and suddenly, out of nowhere, the one year anniversary is upon us.

As there are many people who loved Abram and were touched by his warmth, enthusiasm and music, I wanted to do something to enable others to come together and celebrate the life of someone we all miss very much. It was earlier this year that I came upon the idea of a public performance in Birmingham.

Abram Wilson credit Benjamin Amure

It was in Birmingham, where about three years ago, Abram discovered the then 17-year old pianist Reuben James during a workshop he was leading. It was a pivotal moment for both of them and Abram would regularly recall how Reuben set the piano on fire. Since then, Reuben has grown into a wonderful musician, described as “fast becoming Britain’s best young jazz pianist” by The Times. Not bad for someone who has just turned 20 years old.

Of course, it helps if you have rock solid musicians who allow you to shine. The double bass and drums may not be as attractive as the piano, but Alex Davis and Dave Hamblett undoubtedly help to take the music to another level. It’s why the Financial Times called them “a stand out young rhythm section”.

Abram also made a huge contribution to Town Hall & Symphony Hall’s inspiring music education programme, Generation Ladywood. During 2012, Abram had been working with 350 children from Ladywood writing a new commission called Time I Met The Blues. They were due to perform it on 28 May 2012 at Symphony Hall; Abram was particularly excited about the event because he had planned for a number of the young musicians to improvise. Sadly, Abram never got to see his music performed as by that time he was already in hospital. The gig still went ahead and several months later the young people involved were still shouting Abram’s mantra from the rooftops: “No fear!”. This was Abram’s war cry to the children of Ladywood when he was teaching them to improvise.

Abram was passionate about improvisation, because it is such a key part of jazz music; it allows the audience to truly here your voice. So not only did these young people get the opportunity to work with my husband, and learn his wonderful piece, but they also discovered not to be afraid of expressing who they were.

On Tuesday 4 June 2013, I will have the pleasure of presenting the Abram Wilson No Fear Award to the Ladywood jazz pupil who has shown the most courage over the last year. And later, at 5pm in Symphony Hall Cafe Bar, Abram’s rhythm section, who are increasingly becoming known as the Reuben James Trio, will remember Abram in the best way they know how – through jazz music. They’ll be playing a selection of Abram’s compositions which they’ve arranged especially for the trio. They’ll also be performing some new tunes, because Abram lives on, not just through his music, but through the music of those he taught and mentored.

- Jennie Cashman Wilson,Abram Wilson Foundation

Read a Q & A with Reuben James here

Image credit: Benjamin Amure