Seven years: how far we’ve come

Can you believe it’s been seven years already?  As I reflected on the lows and highs of life since Abram passed away, I am gradually managing to accept that no matter how bad it gets, it always gets better, often in ways you can never imagine. With the support of a wonderful array of friends and funders, I’m unbelievably proud of what we’ve achieved in this time. This blog features some of my highlights, plus some ways you can help the Abram Wilson Foundation keep moving onwards and upwards.  Thank you for showing me the way, Abram. Love, Jennie x

Abram’s memorial parade and service, July 2012 We gathered on London’s South Bank in 30 degree heat to say goodbye to a friend, brother, son and husband.  It was a day of joy and celebration with fellow musicians, friends and fans coming together to create an uplifting afternoon filled with the sweet sounds and colours of Abram’s home, New Orleans.

Abram’s memorial parade, image credit: Shan Jenkins

London Jazz Festival gig in memory of Abram, 2013  A year after Abram passed, we paid tribute to him with a Purcell Room concert celebrating the music from the final years of his career and finished off the night at Ronnie Scott’s.  Close friends and musical associates Reuben James (keys) and Dave Hamblett (drums) were joined on stage by Jason Marsalis (drums), Trevor Mires (trombone), Mark Lewandowski (bass), saxophonists Keith Loftis, Peter King and Jean Touissant, plus trumpet player Alphonso Home.  A magical and unforgettable evening!

London Jazz Festival: image credit Benjamin Amure

Trailblazing!  In 2016 we kicked off our Abram Wilson Foundation Trailblazers membership scheme. Our Trailblazers are part of a super hip jazz community who support the best, brightest young jazz musicians in town. Trailblazers get invites and exclusives to special gigs, plus the warm fuzzy feeling of giving young people from challenging backgrounds the chance to build their confidence and resilience through our music education programme in schools.

Our fifth anniversary gig at Bush Hall In May 2017 we celebrated this incredible milestone with a very special gig raising over £12,000 in funds for the next generation of artists.  There were some truly exceptional performances from Madam, the Rachael Cohen Quartet and Kokoroko, and our patrons Reuben James and Nitin Sawhney. Oh what a night!

Image credit: Pia Simon-Campbell

Wates Foundation and William Wates Memorial Trust grants I was thrilled in a ‘pinch yourself is this actually happening?’ kind of way when the William Wates Memorial Trust came on board as our first ever multi-year funder. Back in 2014, the Trust not only helped me prepare for a £10,000 grant which was the start of the Abram Wilson Foundation becoming my full time employment a year later, but in 2018 granted us £50,000 for three years of funding to help support our schools programme.

Dylan Jones’ tribute gig, 2018 It was an emotional one on 3rd October, when Ezra Collective’s Dylan Jones paid tribute to his former teacher Abram in a special gig at the h Club’s Oak Room, an event for which Abram’s brother Saleem flew over from the USA especially. Dylan said: “Abram to this day is one of the most inspiring teachers I’ve ever had: charismatic, driven, passionate, humble. Not only was he amazing technically on the horn but his energy, creativity and drive was like no other and was intrinsic in my musical upbringing.”  Plus we celebrated our first Circle of Greatness dinner on the same evening, for our super loyal, higher level supporters who get even more exclusive access to our musicians and patrons.

Dylan Jones image credit: Funky Feet Photography

Future Sound, November 2018 In a unique collaboration, we brought together young people at Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, afrobeat-jazz band Kokoroko and jazz venue Church of Sound. Band members led a series of workshops in school, and the talented young musicians developed their own compositions and learned Kokoroko tunes, culminating in two amazing community and professional gigs. Sophie Sayer, Head of Music at Mossbourne, said: “I know that Kokoroko have made a lasting impression, and several of our students have now expressed interest in pursuing music further when they leave school, which is really exciting! The gig was also a highlight. It blew expectations out of the water and I think a lot of depth of musicality was unearthed, which perhaps some students didn’t even realise they had. It was a very special evening.” Look out for a fab new video of highlights from the project, coming up in a blog very soon!

Future Sound image credit: Silvia Gin

7 things you can do to support the Abram Wilson Foundation

1.Phone a jazz-loving friend and invite them to one of our gigs! With regular events featuring some of London’s hottest musical talent, at exclusive venues like Soho House and h Club, what’s not to love?

2. Sign up to Amazon Smile If you shop with Amazon anyway, please register, choose AWF as the charity of your choice and the Amazon Smile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible goods to us, yay!

3. Trailblaze with us!  It’s super easy, for just £10/month you can become an exclusive member of the Abram Wilson Foundation.  Simply email [email protected] et voilà you’re part of the famalan.

4. Do you work for a company that champions the arts and wants to support disadvantaged young people in their local community? If so, we’d love to chat to them about ways they can get involved with AWF.

5. Give us the gift of time We’re a mighty team but a tiny one!  Do you have a professional skill you could share to help us with our website, fundraising, research or events organisation?  

6. Make like Jennie and celebrate your birthday with a fundraiser for AWF If you’re on Facebook it’s mega simple to set up – just click here and ask your loved ones to give a gift to AWF to celebrate your special day.

7. Ever thought of being a Trustee?  We’re lucky to have an amazing team of super committed and talented trustees and are currently on the look out for the right one or two people to join them. Could that be you?

We’d love to hear from you on [email protected] if you can help!