07/02/12

Trumpeter Abram Wilson Dies at 38

Colon cancer claims the life of London-based, American-born musician

Abram Wilson, a trumpeter who was born in Arkansas, raised in New Orleans but had lived in London for the past decade, died of colon cancer June 9. He was 38. In a 2005 JazzTimes feature Wilson explained his relocation: “Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon and Quincy Jones came here and found a lot of success. I wanted to get my music into an international scene. I woke up one morning and said, ‘I want to go to Europe.’”

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Janine Irons

Abram Wilson

A New York Times obituary said Wilson “was known for combining musical forms—melding quicksilver bebop with cloudbursts of hip-hop or passages of Stevie Wonder sung in his modest Sunday chorister’s voice.”

Wilson was also a vocalist whose style has been described as a cross between Nat King Cole and classic Motown.

Wilson was born Aug. 30, 1973 in Ft. Smith, Ark. His family moved to New Orleans when he was a child and Wilson began playing trumpet at age 9. He attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and, at 17, won a scholarship to study classical trumpet at Ohio Wesleyan University. He then attended the Eastman School of Music at Rochester University in New York. His first major ongoing gig was with trumpeter Roy Hargrove's big band, and he also worked with R&B vocalist Ruth Brown.

Wilson moved to London in 2002, where he played in pianist Julian Joseph’s big band, with bassist Gary Crosby’s group Nu Troop and in Crosby’s group Jazz Jamaica. Wilson also taught music in London schools. He released his debut album as a leader, Jazz Warrior, in 2004. He was also named assistant artistic director for an educational program called Tomorrow's Warriors.

The Times obituary described his 2007 album Ride! Ferris Wheel to the Modern Day Delta as “a kind of jazz opera about a trumpeter who tries to escape his jazz roots to become a hip-hop megastar, but who returns to the fold in the end.” His final album was 2009’s Life Paintings.

Wilson was also the recipient of numerous awards in Britain, including a BBC award for the 2007 release.

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