Click here to [close]

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Abdul Wadud - RIP

Abdul Wadud, from the LP Julius Hemphill + Abdul K. Wadud – Live In New York
Album Photography By G. Gallina, M. Mangiarotti

On August 10, cellist Abdul Wadud passed away at the age of 75. Wadud is one of those musicians whose impact on listeners and musicians has been significant, even if his output as a leader has been relatively limited. 

I think every jazz lover's heart will jump up at the first drums and cello notes of "Dogon AD", the brilliant composition by Julius Hemphill on the album with the same name. Its phenomenal rhythm, its haunting bowed cello, the crisp drums by Philip Wilson, the astonishing performances by both Hemphill and Caroll on horns, make this music even today still a revelation. I can encourage you to listen to the entire album and enjoy it in full. Wadud shines on all pieces, navigating the most complex rhythms and adding a lot to the overall sound.

Wadud was born on April 30, 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio as Ronald Earsal DeVaughn. He started playing sax and cello at the age of 8, played in school bands, and later studied at Youngstown State University 1966-1967 and at Oberlin College Conservatory 1968-1970. At Oberlin, Wadud made his debut recording with the Black Unity Trio with their recently re-released Al-Fatihah Here is a long and interesting interview with Wadud in Point of Departure, with Joel Wanek and Tomeka Reid as interviewers. 

As a (co-)leader he only released seven albums, but he was very much in demand to perform with other iconic jazz musicians, with Hemphill of course, but also with Frank Lowe, Arthur Blythe, Charles Bobo Shaw, Oliver Lake, David Murray, George Lewis and even with Miles Davis. 

Wadud stopped performing in mid-career, burnt-out by the efforts and the little reward. In a way he seems to have regretted this: "It’s been fruitful. I miss it. I’m sometimes wondering what would have happened if I continued a little longer." On the other hand, not many musicians have been able to have had the impact that Wadud had, not to mention the joy to hear him play. I think not only cellists, but all jazz fans will share that feeling. A heartfelt thanks from all of us for the limited gems of music he offered us.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends. 

- Stef Gijssels


Kruse said...

This is kind of weird - to read that Abdul Wadud passed away - a month or so ago I happened to pick out some of the albums on which he plays, among others the duets w Julius Hemphill, the classic Dogon AD and his solo album By Myself. Enjoyed maybe half a dozen albums, but then wondered whatever happened to Abdul: was he still alive??. Apparently so and also found among other things the long and interesting interview you linked to.
Sad that he's gone but I'm happy for the memory I have seeing and hearing him in NYC playing with Julius Hemphill - truly great black music!! RIP, indeed!

Ron in Chicago said...

It is indeed unfortunate that so fine an artist was unable to maintain a productive career. His contributions to works in the essential discography of creative improvised music secure his legacy as an indispensable figure.

I'm saddened to hear of his passing but grateful for the music he left behind.

Gary Chapin said...

This is very sad. I love AW's work and agree completely with you about the thrill Dogon A.D. sends up my soul when I hear those first measures. I met AW once in the early '90s, when I interviewed him for a piece. Super nice guy.

Ernst Grgo Nebhuth said...


What an irony of history. Just when a reissue of his seminal solo album 'By Myself' was announced Abdul Wadud has died. This makes it even more sad IMHO.

Another fine interview with him is available at:

If someone is inclined to get the reissue of 'By Myself' (I've joined the subscription) go to
It's from the same label, Gotta Groove Records, which already did a great job with the Black Unity's sole album 'Al-Fatihah' two years ago.

A related interview one can read at: