Tomorrow we'll be remembering the beginning of something. Exactly a year ago today Abram's band and I started a 20-date tour that would be cut short two months later due to cancer. It hardly seems any time at all that Abram and I were preparing for his quartet to perform at Pizza Express Jazz Club on 4th April 2012. Two days later we headed off to the Oxford Jazz Festival excited and high off a 4**** review in the Guardian by John Fordham who described the Philippa Project as "a work in progress that will be fascinating to follow".
I remember chasing one of the organisers of the Oxford Jazz Festival back in 2011, trying to persuade him to book Abram's quartet. He kept emailing me saying he'd bear it in mind - never a good sign in my opinion! But it turned out I was wrong and Oxford became the second of a string of dates that would become more memorable than I could have ever imagined.
On 25th May the tour ended abruptly, and two weeks later Abram lost his life to a very short battle with cancer. He never got to go back into the recording studio as we'd planned, or develop the Philippa Project into a jazz theatre piece. But it's worth bearing in mind that during what would turn out to be his last year with us, he wrote some incredible new music. There were three other projects besides the Philippa tunes that he'd premiered in public between April 2011 and May 2012 and we could all see that Abram was really starting to come into his own, both as a performer and a composer.
Yesterday I read the author Iain Bank's personal statement explaining that he has cancer and his life will end in a few months. It was beautifully written, simple and very honest. It struck me that his experience almost runs parallel with Abram's. The time lines are very similar, just a year later; Banks began noticing pains in January but put it down to work before finally paying a visit to his GP in mid-February which is exactly when Abram went to see his doctor. When Banks was recently informed that he had late stage gall bladder cancer and there was nothing they could do, he asked his long-term partner to become his 'widow'.
The only difference between Iain Banks and Abram is time. More time to live, Banks is 59, more time to be with his partner, six years instead of three, and more time to acknowledge that time has run out. When Abram was told it was terminal and he only had a few weeks left to live, he said that he still had so much he wanted to do. I am sure it is exactly the same for Banks. Time is relative after all, and no matter how much you get, you will always want more.
I'm grateful for the time Abram and I had together; we didn't have much but we had enough to focus on the important things which is what Banks is doing now - spending his last remaining months with his family and friends. Banks' work is done now, as was Abram's before he passed; Banks' final book has been written and Abram's last piece of music was finished on 17th April 2012. But as another author, Mitch Albom, once wrote "All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time".
Tomorrow we will be remembering the beginning of the end, an ending which turned out to be the start of something very special, the Abram Wilson Foundation for Creative Arts. It is my new beginning and one that I'm happy to share with Abram's band - Alex Davis, Dave Hamblett and Reuben James as well as the lovely people of Oxford, Max Mason and the staff at the Big Bang Restaurant, photographer Edu Hawkins who documented the Oxford Jazz Festival gig last year and of course my rock solid new trustees, Laura Palmer, Laura Vakil (née Biddlecombe) and Flo Butler.
I very much hope to see some of you there.
Address: The Big Bang Restaurant, 42 Oxford Castle Quarter, Oxford, OX1 1AY
Tickets: £10 each which includes a raffle ticket
Prize: One-off signed photograph of Abram performing at the 2012 Oxford Jazz Festival by Edu Hawkins
All proceeds from the raffle will go directly to the Abram Wilson Foundation.
I just want to finish by leaving you with a classic Marvin Gaye tune, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) which I'd like to dedicate to Iain Banks and his new widow, Adele. I hope they make the next few months count.
Photo credit: Benjamin Amure