A friend (and fan) of Abram once said to me, “if he wasn’t such a talented musician he’d have made one hell of a politician”. Perhaps he was right, Abram was charismatic, inspiring, and always charming to those he met. He was eloquent and passionate about what he believed in. With those good looks and killer smile you were putty in his hands, ready to believe anything. If Abram could convince people to vote for him as much as he could convince them to love jazz, then yes, he might have made a very good politician indeed. But I’m thankful I can say that ultimately it would never have worked out. He was far too honest and sensitive to make it in the world of politics. He cared far too much about what he did; he wasn’t interested in playing games, or wasting his time trying to bring the other ‘team’ down. Like Abram always said, “I just wanna play, man!”.
On the day of the U.S presidential election, as the world watches, waiting in anticipation to see who America chooses as their next president, I can’t help but think about the performances involved for both candidates. It got me thinking about Abram, and how much he loved to perform. The presidential candidates are acting their socks off right now, frantically trying to win those key states that will inevitably mean the difference between winning and losing. It is a real life drama being played out before a global audience, and it’s difficult not to get caught up in it.
Abram wasn’t much of a fan of real life drama, his interest in performance remained rooted in his art and stayed firmly on stage. It was a place where his love for stories shone through and soon became a trade-mark of the jazz man from New Orleans. He had the fortune to pursue his passion in many forms, which included working with a couple of wonderful theatre directors; David Lan (Artistic Director at London’s The Young Vic) who directed Abram in In the Red and Brown Water and Tim Supple who directed him in Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Curve in Leicester. Abram got a real kick out of being in those two shows, he even kept the script for the former and the programme for the latter (and Abram was not a keeper of things). I’ve included some pictures here, the one where Abram has the big beard is his Shakespearean look.
For those of you that don’t know much about this side of Abram’s career, I've included a video of Abram singing the Legba Song, one of the tunes from In the Red and Brown Water. It was later remixed by Neel D’Wala (or Papa D as Abram would call him). The run finished four years ago this Thursday, 8th November, which also happens to be our five month wedding anniversary. Abram was the musical director and a key performer in the production. You can read a lovely review of the show in the Guardian by John Fordham here:
After these two experiences Abram was determined to do more acting, which is where the Philippa Project came in. After writing the music inspired by Philippa Schuyler’s life, Abram knew he wanted to take the project further and develop a jazz-theatre piece with director Pia Furtado. I know that if Abram were here with me, we’d be gripped to the coverage of the election, planning to stay up all night, rooting for the man we wanted to become president. Abram was so excited about the 2012 election and kept saying to me “I gotta register to vote man. I gotta register”. In the end he ran out of time, and tonight, instead of staying up for the results I’m going to pack myself off to bed. Tomorrow, as Europe wakes up to a new president, Pia and and I will be meeting with Arts Council England to talk about funding for the next stage of the Philippa Project. I can’t vote for Abram, but with your help, I can finish what we started.
Photo credit for black and white image: Tom Mallow