Al-Fatihah (1st, 1969)
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The Black Unity Trio’s sole album Al-Fatihah dates back to 1969. Characteristically for an avant garde jazz group whose history has remained largely an enigma. Titled after the Qur’an’s first Sura, Arabic for “The Opening”, Al-Fatihah was in fact taped in 1968, during free jazz’s heavy years, and released in 1969. The Black Unity Trio were not based in the music’s epicentres but in the industrial northeastern edge of the Midwest, in Cleveland, Ohio. Assuredly, the music is on par with what was happening in New York, Chicago or Paris, but comparisons would miss the point as this music speaks in a most distinct voice of life, time and mysteries.
Saxophonist and double bassist Yusuf Mumin, cellist Abdul Wadud and drummer Hasan Shahid came together some six months before recording Al-Fatihah and disbanded in 1969. Al-Fatihah bears witness to those months of highly intense musical activity. “I haven’t experienced a total situation like that since then, the combination of music and philosophy and life all in one. I’ve been coasting on that experience for 15 years,” Abdul Wadud once told Coda magazine. Shahid says much the same below.
Released in a run of 500 copies by the musicians themselves well before doing so became common practice, Al-Fatihah has become a legendary recording, eagerly sought after by collectors prepared to part with a thousand dollars to get hold of a copy.
- By Pierre Crépon
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