INTAKT RECORDS – CD-REVIEWS
GLOBE UNITY ORCHESTRA



GLOBE UNITY 2002. INTAKT CD 086 / 2003

 

Das hätte ich mir nicht träumen lassen, dass FREE JAZZ noch einmal derart in Grossbuchstaben und im Grossformat meine Hörwelt anheizen würde. Links stapeln sich die Atavistic-Tiefbohrungen in die Zeit des Urknalls und ins FMP-Archiv ("More Nipples", "Fuck De Boere"), rechts die Neueinspielungen mit dem Brötzmann Chicago Tentet Plus Two (Okka Disk) oder dem GLOBE UNITY ORCHESTRA. Gemeinsamer Nenner: Chicago und Brötzmann. Den 17. Juli 2003, den Abend, an dem ich mich vom Brötzmann Chicago Tentet live im KULT Niederstetten überwältigen lassen konnte, habe ich mir als Datum mit dem höchsten Gänsehautfaktor im Kalender angestrichen.
Die Glücklichen, die im Jahr zuvor am 19.Januar in der Aachener Klangbrücke die Geburtsstunde von Globe Unity 2002 (Intakt 086) miterlebten, können jetzt ihre Erinnerungen auffrischen und wir unsere Wohnzimmer in Brand setzen. Die Brandstifter sind neben Bandleader Alexander von Schlippenbach am Piano Manfred Schoof (Trompete, Flügelhorn), Evan Parker (Soprano & Tenorsax), Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky (Altosax, Klarinette, Flöte), Paul Rutherford und Hannes Bauer (Posaune), Paul Lovens und Paul Lytton (Drums) und eben Peter der Grosse an Tarogato, Tenorsax und Klarinette. "Live in Wuppertal" (1973), "Hamburg '74", "Into the Valley" (1975), "Rumbling" (1975), "Pearls" (1975) dokumentieren das Mesolithikum der Global Players, aber wer 1986 sein "20th Anniversary" feiern konnte, hat entsprechend früh angefangen (Atavistic lieferte die nachträglichen Belege). Zwischen dem letzten Auftritt 1986 ausgerechnet in Chicago und der Reunion liegen 15 stille Jahre für das Kollektiv, erfüllt freilich von den hartnäckigen Einzelaktivitäten. Keine Rückkehr also von lebenden Toten oder schales Bier in alten Flaschen. Es hat sich nur der aus Richtung Chicago aufgefrischte Wind gedreht zu Gunsten der Free Power und zur ungebrochenen Lust kam die Gelegenheit, wenigstens als Nonet vor 250 Fans zu spielen. Die Position des Bassisten blieb unbesetzt, was im Nachhinein wie eine symbolische Leerstelle für Peter Kowald wirkt. Zu Ehren eines ihrer grössten Bewunderer, des verstorbenen Robert Wenseler, zog die Unity alle Register. Nichts geht über ihre kakophonen Tutti, dem einzigen gemischten Chor, in dem Angels and Demons, Witches and Devils gemeinsam dem Tohuwabohu huldigen. Dazwischen funken feuerzungige Soli, jeder bekennt zweimal seine Sünden, meist unterstützt vom rumorenden Perkussionsgespann. Nur Parkers Sopranotriller, mit denen er einmal mehr in den siebten Himmel zu bohren versucht, wird von andächtigem Einverständnis stumm begleitet. Ich kann mir nicht helfen, gegen Musik wie diese tausche ich sämtliches Flachgewichse und Bröselgekacke ein. Der dritte Frühling von Tyrannosaurus Brötzmann vereint im Chicago Tentet mit Vandermark, Gustafsson, Williams, Kessler, Bishop, Zerang und Lonberg-Holm die nachgerückte Generation und mit McPhee und Drake die volksmusikalischen Wurzeln der Geistermarschmusik. Aber ohne die FMP- und SME-Pioniere, die als Eisbrecher seit 1966 kontinuierlich durch die abendländische Seelenlandschaft pflügen, wäre eine solche Alienwiedergeburt schwer denkbar. Dass der gewaltige kakophone Thrill in solchen neun- und zehnköpfigen Klangkörpern auf einer speziellen Kollektivkommunikation basiert, einer intuitiven Verständigung aus den Augenwinkeln, einer vereinbarten Zeichensprache für den tribalen Groove, kurz, auf einem ausnahmsweise mal verwirklichten Ideal der '68er, auch das macht für mich diese Musik bad alchemystischer als viele andere.
Rigo Dittmann, Bad Alchemy, Nr. 42/2003

 

4 * stars (best of genre)
The ironies are everywhere: the aging cream of European free jazz performing radically as ever, continuing what they have been doing so well for decades; the reincarnation of a once shocking ensemble that may now sound different but is just as extreme as it was in the 1960s - though by 2003 it was firmly planted in a tradition it helped form. The Globe Unity Orchestra’s first recording in more than a decade is a wild ride down memory lane – but this alley is laced with darkened unending nightmares that make the hairs stand on edge. They are all there: the amazing Evan Parker, the rambunctious Peter Brotzmann, the versatile Manfred Schoof, back to form, and even the notoriously raw and un-British Englishman Paul Rutherford. All together there are only nine of them, but you’d never guess it from listening to the gargantuan, sprawling, almost always fascinating live track that constitutes the recording: The sound is that of a full-fledged twenty-plus piece orchestra. Brilliant pianist/ composer and leader Alexander von Schlippenbach never lets it get out of control, although there is no written score. Ebbing and flowing like waves anticipating a storm, and interspersed with often spectacular solos, the group verges on anarchy over and over again before one of the band members inevitably stands forward to take the reigns. For those who like it hot, no, burning … and, by the way, who was it who said that old people can’t dance?
Steven Loewy,All Music Guide to Jazz, Barnes & Noble, August 2003

 

 

OUT ALBUM OF THE WEEK
In 1966, following the precedents of John Coltrane's 'Ascension' and the Sun Ra Arkestra, German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach put together a big band of adventurous European musicians to play his loosely structured piece based on '60s utopian musical and political concepts, titled Globe Unity. For the next 20 years, various groupings of international improvisers assembled under the co-op GLOBE UNITY ORCHESTRA banner, occasionally employing specific compositional disciplines, but primarily speaking the common language of free jazz -- and specializing in intense, explosive, expressionistic rave-ups. The band's final appearance was at the 1986 Chicago Jazz Festival (I was, and still am, on the festival's programming committee, and vividly remember the storm of music -- and controversy -- that resulted from that performance). But last year a new incarnation of Globe Unity came together for a memorial concert dedicated to a longtime friend, and that volcanic musical reunion has been released as 'GLOBE UNITY ORCHESTRA 2002' (Intakt, 4 stars). Though all nine veteran musicians have since carved out individual stylistic niches in the variegated Euro improv scene, they quickly readapted to the cohesively chaotic Globe Unity format of rousing ensemble polyphony and fabric-shredding solos. Listening to the tumult, it's easy to be swept along by the high-energy gestural immediacy -- the squirts and squiggles of Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky's a! lto sax, Peter Brötzmann's blast furnace tenor sax, trombonist Paul Rutherford's controlled sputterings, trumpeter Manfred Schoof's spry lyricism -- but close attention reveals engaging inner details that thread through and unify the rambunctious proceedings, like Paul Lovens' and Paul Lytton's acute percussion, the accompanying interactive horn contortions, and Schlippenbach's thoughtful intervals. They may have taken sixteen years off, but Globe Unity is still blazing after all these years.
ART LANGE, Epulse, Tower Records, USA, 18. August 2003

 

 

Neue CDs europäischer Free-Jazz-Pioniere auf dem Intakt-Label
Was die Väter von den Söhnen gelernt haben

Von Peter Niklaus Wilson

Altherrenmusik? Das wäre doch ein bisschen unfreundlich formuliert. Obwohl: Seit den Mitt- oder Spätsechzigern sind die meisten von ihnen schon dabei. 35 Jahre und mehr im Dienst der Sache, der Sache Freie Musik. Drei, vier Jahrzehnte on the road, jeden Abend Tabula rasa, jeden Abend die Musik von neuem erfinden.
Doch müde wirkt keiner von ihnen, wie drei neuere CDs des Zürcher Intakt-Labels belegen. Nicht dass Intakt ein Label für Altherrenmusik wäre. Schliesslich sind dort jüngst auch höchst respektable Neuproduktionen jüngerer Schweizer Improvisierender wie Lucas Niggli, Omri Ziegele und Co Streiff erschienen, von der langen Serie von Intakt-Veröffentlichungen der Lokalmatadorin Irène Schweizer ganz abzusehen. Aber nun, da die durch interne Querelen paralysierte Berliner Free Music Production kaum noch die Musik jener Musiker dokumentiert, die über Jahrzehnte ihr Gesicht prägten, sind, so scheint es, die Intakt-Macher freundlicherweise in die Bresche gesprungen.

Altherrenmusik? Der Auftritt des Globe Unity Orchestra in Aachen im Januar 2002, das erste Treffen der Free-Jazz-Gründerväterriege seit 1986, wäre schon geeignet, dem maliziösen Etikett einige Nahrung zu geben. In ungewohnt kleiner Runde hatte man sich da versammelt, nur zu neunt, ohne die einstigen Stammgäste Kowald und Mangelsdorff, Wheeler oder Dudek. Doch unter sich, so scheint es, wollte man wohl doch bleiben. Die alten Haudegen: Spiritus Rector Schlippenbach, die good old boys Brötzmann und Petrowsky, Schoof und Lovens, Parker und Rutherford.

Hochenergie

Globe Unity: Könnte das heute nicht mehr heissen als ein Treffen der Impro-Erstligisten aus England und Deutschland? Könnte man, wenn man das Projekt schon neu belebt, nicht über eine Verjüngung nachdenken? Die nämlich könnte auch der Musik des Kollektivs nicht schaden. Nicht, dass da Lustlosigkeit zu beklagen wäre. Aber die auf Dauer doch recht unverbindliche Kraftmeierei der aufbrausenden Hochenergie-Tutti (oder ihre Alternative in Gestalt eines nicht minder unverbindlichen Lyrismus) wirkt doch so, als seien neuere Entwicklungen der improvisierten Musik weitgehend spurlos an der Vätergeneration vorübergegangen. Was auf der Haben-Seite bleibt, ist eine durch orchestrale Einwürfe gegliederte Folge prägnanter Solo-Statements.

Vier Monate vor dem Aachener Revival-Treffen waren Evan Parker und Barry Guy in Zürich zu Gast. Einmal im DRS-Rundfunkstudio, tags darauf in der Zürcher Sphères-Bar. Free-Musik-Ikonen einmal mehr, doch nun im intimen Duo-Kontext. Und prompt ändert sich die Perspektive. Denn hört man den Saxofonisten und den Bassisten in frühen Aufnahmen und hört man die beiden heute, so wird unmittelbar evident, wie viel reicher die persönlichen Vokabulare mit den Jahren geworden sind: höchst nuancenreich und höchst virtuos zugleich. Kaum fassbar das Tempo der Aktionen und Interaktionen: Fast scheint es, als agierten Guy und Parker auf einer Zeitebene jenseits der menschlichen - der Komponist Gérard Grisey sprach von einer «Zeit der Vögel und der Insekten». Solche Hypertrophie ist indes Segen und Fluch zugleich. Denn zumal Barry Guys Insistieren auf diesem überaktiven Temponiveau verleiht der so detailüberreichen, so filigran verzahnten Duo-Musik den Charakter einer - so paradox es klingt - hysterischen Gleichförmigkeit: faszinierend, doch über die Strecke zweier üppig gefüllter CDs auch ermüdend.

Bläserfeinsinn

Diesem Dilemma ist das dritte von Intakt dokumentierte Ensemble gestandener Free-Heroen geschickt aus dem Weg gegangen. «Between Heaven and Earth», Conrad Bauer, Peter Kowald, Günter Sommer im Studio von DRS Zürich Ende 2001: eher knappe Charakterstücke als lang ausgespielte improvisatorische Bögen, Fokussierung auf bestimmte Klangmaterialien mit Gespür für deren Halbwertszeit.

Ein ungemein wendiger und feinsinniger Posaunist, ein erdiger Bassist mit reicher Weltkultur-Erfahrung und ein Perkussionist, der den Namen verdient, also nicht nur die pulsierenden, sondern auch die punktuellen und koloristischen Aspekte seines Instrumentariums klug einzusetzen versteht: So entsteht eine zwischen Rubato, freiem Puls und konkreter Metrik changierende Musik des Moments, die sehr wohl die selbst geschaffene Tradition des freien Spiels bewahrt, ohne bei einer Revival-Inszenierung der Free-Aufbruchsjahre stehen zu bleiben. Und wenn man schon über «Altherrenmusik» polemisiert - wäre das nicht Altherrenmusik der besten denkbaren Art?

Peter Niklaus Willson© Basler Zeitung; 2003-09-13; Feuilleton

Globe Unity Orchestra 2002. Intakt CD 086.
Barry Guy-Evan Parker/Evan Parker-Barry Guy: «Birds and Blades». Intakt Double CD 080.
Bauer-Kowald-Sommer: «Between Heaven and Earth». Intakt CD 079. Vertrieb: RecRec.

 

 

Pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, saxophonists Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker and the crème de la crème of the European free jazz scene reunite for one seventy-three minute hard-blowing extravaganza. They were one of the seminal free jazz bands and after a bit of a hiatus are captured here, live at a German venue. The pace is non-stop and in-your-face, as this nonet improvises with the flash, fire, and intensity many of us would surmise. Hence, a musical shootout took place on Jan 18, 2002 at a nightclub in Germany. Not casual listening though, even by your typical free-jazz/improvisational measuring stick!
Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz,Oktober 2003

 

 

Potremmo parlare di revival free perché tra la versione 2002 di questa fondamentale orchestra e la sua versione originaria, i cui natali si perdono nel lontano 1966, non sembra esserci stata alcuna frattura. Ufficialmente l'organico, sensibilmente mutato nel corso della sua lunga storia, aveva fatto la sua ultima apparizione a Chicago nel 1986 e per tutti questi anni i suoi membri si erano dispersi nella sterminata costellazione della musica improvvisata. Ora, ancora una volta, Alexander Von Schlippenbach e alcuni compagni storici (Brötzmann, Rutherford, Lovens, Lytton, Schoof, Parker, Bauer e Petrowsky) si rimettono insieme per una lunga performance che si dipana senza in perfetta continuità per ben 73' e 45". L'approccio è quello noto: grande energia, organizzazione dialettica delle parti, sviluppo magmatico e numerosi, ma mai abusati, spazi lasciati ai soli. Scarseggiano i narcisismi a vantaggio di una sensibile attenzione nei confronti dell'integrazione tra singoli episodi e tutti, in perfetta coerenza con l'idea di "democrazia orchestrale" che animava compagini come questa già 30 anni fa. Divertente il gioco dei riconoscimenti a cui ci si può dedicare: il circuitante sax tenore di Parker da contrapporre a quello sforzato di Brötzmann, oppure le due batterie di Lovens e Lytton e infine i due tromboni di Rutherford e Bauer. Ovviamente nulla di nuovo sotto il cielo di Berlino (la presente performance è stata registrata ad Aachen in Germania), anche se ovviamente salutiamo questo reingresso nel mercato con il plauso che merita un pezzo di storia del jazz come questo.
© altremusiche.it / Michele Coralli Indietro

 

 

GLOBE UNITY ORCHESTRA Globe Unity 2002 Intakt CD 086
GIANLUIGI TROVESI OTTETTO Fugace ECM 1827

One potential horror comedians are always joking about is a world where the transportation schedules would be set by the Italians and the restaurants run by the British and Germans. As humorous as this may sound as a situation, these CDs by mid-sized (eight- and nine-piece) bands shows that remarkable sounds can still result if countrymen act antithetically to their clichéd national characteristics. Fugace finds eight legendarily anarchistic Italians settling down for 16 short, arranged improvisations that touch on a variety of genres. Conversely, Globe Unity 2002 features nine supposedly restrained Britons and Germans creating almost 74 minutes of some of the most cacophonous hullabaloo since John Coltrane and 10 other improvisers recorded Ascension in 1965. As a matter of fact, Globe Unity, (the band) has always been in the tradition of all-out passionate expression that characterized 1960s aggregations like the Jazz Composers Orchestra, with the added fillip of being international. Over the years since the band's first LP in 1966, membership has swollen to a high of 19, with American, Italian, Dutch and Polish musicians included, until it officially disbanded in 1986. This one-time, live concert reunion 15 years later finds most of the longtime Globers on hand and confirms that the spirit and excitement the band engendered in its lifetime still exists. As well, 30 years on, a serene quantity has crept into some of the playing. Leader Alexander von Schlippenbach, for instance, may begin the proceedings with intense, emotional, Romantic arpeggios, but during the course of the one long piece here he'll relax into almost conventional jazz club comping and fills. Then when it comes time for his extended solo, his playing seems more bop-like and connected than the style of his first influence, Thelonious Monk. He uses careful voicing and portamento to glide across the keyboard. Building up tension in the free jazz sense with serpentine chords and echoing vibrations, his swiftness can resemble that of a player piano. Yet his unaccompanied coda is near pastoral, well modulated and definitely two-handed. Trumpeter and, flugelhornist Manfred Schoof, who started off as a German version of a so-called Progressive jazzman, reverts to form in his solo spots. At one point he reveals long-lined patterned and focused grace notes that evolve to note-perfect brassy triplets, at another builds up mellow flugelhorn filigree, which when combined with the backing orchestral figures recall Miles Ahead. Others have intensified the way they first played 30 years ago. Evan Parker offers a five-minute plus exhibition of louder and softer circular breathing from his soprano sax, that appears to have an unmistakable bagpipe echo. Meantime fellow Briton, trombonist Paul Rutherford, growls and mumbles and rants within his trombone bell, with his snorts and Bronx cheers finally calling forth dampening metallic rim shot action and cymbal crashes from the dual percussionists. His direct musical descendent, German trombonist Johannes Bauer, also exhibits some double-tongued slurs backed with only piano accompaniment. Dissonance, in all its ear-wrenching glory still inhabits the playing of the two remaining horn men though: Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky on alto saxophone, clarinet and flute and Peter Brötzmann on tenor saxophone, tarogato and clarinet. One reedist -- though likely not Parker -- ejaculates some split-tone altissimo squeaks near the beginning of the extended piece, the likes of which haven't been heard since the heyday of Giuseppi Logan. Much later, peeping tarogato timbres meet up with woody bass clarinet tones, arching from dog-whistle to bird trilling territory. Then there's a point just past midway where the "Ascension"-style total band hubbub slackens to expose a protracted series of screeches and multiphonic blasts from the tenormen. The yells and applause from the audience makes it appear that for it, this was the highpoint equivalent of Paul Gonsalves' protracted solo on Duke Ellington's "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blues" at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. As all this is going on, the proper tempo for clangorous explosions and feather light interludes is provided by the Pauline duo on percussion -- England's Paul Lytton and Germany's Paul Lovens. Trovesi's Ottetto features two drummers as well, but that's about the only symmetry between the two sessions. Old enough -- he was born in 1944 near Bergamo -- to be part of the Globe Unity generation, multi-reedist Trovesi mixed his jazz with studio work earlier in his career. Part of the first generation of Southern European musicians to assert themselves internationally, Trovesi is known for his folklore-tinged work with trumpeter Pino Minafra, and membership in the all-star Italian Instabile Orchestra, which also includes ex-Globe Unity trumpeter Enrico Rava. Like his other octet sessions though, Fugace resides in a space of its own, where traditional Italian operatic drama coexists with improvisation, and where the references include veteran local comic Totò as well as Louis Armstrong. Thus on the three-part "Totò nei Caraibi," as the pizzicato plucking of the three string players suggests a cartoon cat sneaking across the horizon, other sounds form the band reference a funeral march and echo calypsos. In the same way, "Ramble" begins with a note-perfect Dixieland emulation with the drummers exercising their kits with ratamacues and a clip-clop rhythm like duple Baby Dodds, as Trovesi on clarinet makes like Baby's older brother -- and Armstrong associate -- Johnny. But trumpeter Massimo Greco reaches for augmented notes too modern for Satchmo, the clarinet is soon trilling in a modernistic folk style reminiscent of Jimmy Giuffre, and you'd never hear Marco Remondini's arco cello slices anywhere in trad jazz. Blasts from trombonist Beppe Caruso, who leads his own fine brass band, form a countermelody that doubles and triples the tempo until the end. In contrast to the Globe Unity veterans, the reedist's is a younger band, made up in the main of musicians who have played with him for about a decade. With Remondini and percussionist Fluvio Maras adding electronics to the mix the Trovesi Eight proffers some unique textures, including a series of linking interludes that sound as if they were created on an electrified harpsichord that snuck in from a Yardbirds session. Thus while Trovesi may sometimes echo Benny Goodman and the unison string section get a bit overwrought in the 1,001 strings tradition, plenty of other slants arise as well. "Blues and West" for instance, starts off with enough reverb from the electronica and electric bass slaps plus monochromic drumming to make it sound like a rock band has invaded the studio. In between riffing horns, Trovesi on alto creates some cosmic bop-inflected squeals and Greco plays a soaring, slurred trumpet line. "Canto di lavoro" goes in the opposite direction. It starts off with an Armstrong-like trumpet cadenza, introduces chalumeau clarinet trills and finishes with a sound that ping-pongs from outer-space whistles from the electronics, and someone, somehow -- perhaps the top strings of the electric bass -- producing a quivering Jimi Hendrix-like electric guitar distortion. Massed horn riffs often appear to be half banda and half James Brown's horn section, Trovesi's split tone can often take on a distinctive Arabic inflection and the dual backbeat, if from hand drums, can be as much Savannah as Sardinia. Improvised music has become such an all-encompassing category that a group can perform in a variety of ways to produce outstanding music, despite national clichés. Globe Unity and the Ottetto demonstrate two excellent versions of these methods.
Ken Waxman, Jazzweekly, USA, December 2003

 

At the fiery cataclysm that ends all creation, Alexander von Schlippenbach may get a reprieve for being the one of the most significant European musicians of the past 40 years. His body of work is extensive but he is most known for two radically different spheres of accomplishment: small group work beginning with Gunter Hampel's 1965 quintet which morphed into the Manfred Schoof Quintet (on par with the second Miles quintet) and the trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lovens; and ensembles as the founder of the Globe Unity Orchestra (GUO), a group that has set the standard for large format improvisation worldwide. Schlippenbach has continued to work steadily but there has been a dearth of recordings since 2000, a year that saw the release of unearthed GUO from 1967 and 1970 and a discovered 1976 quintet recording. A parallel can be drawn to the past few months of 2003, when two new albums, Globe Unity 2002, released by the Swiss imprint Intakt, and Broomriding, by the Evan Parker-run Emanem offshoot Psi, saw Schlippenbach still working in his two preferred formats: a newly reformed GUO and a recording with an exciting new quartet. The two new albums, released in the unstable post-FMP European world, have two immediate connections - covers created by the same artist, Marina Kern, and being bass-less. The second is actually no surprise as Schlippenbach during his storied career has worked almost exclusively with only two bassists, Buschi Niebergall and Peter Kowald (apart from an occasional bassist in his other large ensemble the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra). With those two having sadly departed, chances are Schlippenbach will shy away from the low end until he finds someone who understands his complex vision. Other than these shared facets, comparisons can be made as always with free recordings. However, with the GUO Schlippenbach is the ringleader - guys like Parker, Schoof, Peter Brötzmann and Paul Rutherford are not easily pushed around - participating in an equitable formation of bombast. His new quartet, with long-time foil Paul Lovens on drums, Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet (a player he raves as being the freest in Europe) and Tristan Honsinger on cello (maybe best known as a current member of the ICP Orchestra), is his own project, certainly buoyed by the contributions of its members but squarely drawing from his own well of innovation. Globe Unity 2002 is the first recording by this group since the FMP 20th anniversary album from 1986. The GUO always represented or reflected or maybe even directed the sphere of European jazz going on around it. Beginning as primarily German, it expanded to include the players from the burgeoning English and Dutch scenes before going international with players from the Americas. An always revolving cast, this current nonet edition contains some stalwarts (Schoof, Brötzmann, Parker, Rutherford, Lovens) and adds some new, though quite established faces in Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, Hannes Bauer and Paul Lytton. How to describe it? The GUO is not the Sun Ra Arkestra, nor is it the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, two other long-standing avant garde big bands. At times during the near 74-minute live performance it is Eric Dolphy's vision multiplied by 9, at others a classical orchestra in mutiny against years of established practice. It is a vehicle for Brötzmann to try to force his lungs through the mouthpiece of his horn and spatter the audience with bloody chunks or for Evan Parker to play a latter-day snake charmer with swirling circular-breathed soprano sax lines. It is an opportunity for Schoof, semi-retired from performance, to revisit his halcyon days or Rutherford and Bauer to fence each other in a trombone duel to the death, all while Lovens, well-dressed, and Lytton, peering from behind his kit like a mad scientist, reinvent rhythm at a million miles per hour. Schlippenbach can be the glue or he can be the wedge - he acts as the missing bassist, an irresistible force meeting several immovable objects. Is it successful? This kind of music lives and dies usually in two ways. Individual moments are transcendent, a creativity which could never be distilled in a controlled environment. And as a whole, European free improvisation on this scale is like running top-speed through the Louvre; at the end, one is unsure what just happened but you feel quite good about it. Broomriding, a rare small group excursion away from his trio with Parker and Lovens is also successful but with plenty of room to grow. Schlippenbach, as evidenced throughout his career, is a big proponent of long-term musical relationships. He has not logged as much time with this quartet as with his normal trio and while the improvisations are fascinating, they do lack a certain brashness. This is not a criticism but rather perhaps a comment on Schlippenbach's new direction. A quartet of bass clarinet, cello, piano and drums cannot hope to compete with wailing saxophones or manhandled basses. While certainly full of spunky moments, usually drawn out by Honsinger's circus mentality, this is actually an album of moods. Or to call upon the spirit of Eric Dolphy once more (as the quartet does by playing "Straight Up and Down" and "Something Sweet, Something Tender" from Out To Lunch), this is avant garde slowly and thoroughly percolated. Schlippenbach stays away from his Cecil Taylor-isms and Mahall plays the bass clarinet the way it should be played, as an elegant morose instrument (younger players take note!). Most of the tracks are ostensibly Schlippenbach compositions ("Broomriding 1-7"). Joining the two Dolphy tracks are two numbers by Honsinger. None of the 11 tracks on the 67-minute album are over ten minutes and several clock in under 5. Anyone who has heard Schlippenbach's solo piano album Payan (Enja, 1972) or the trio recording Elf Bagatellen (FMP, 1991) knows that he is equally comfortable playing short to-the-point pieces as he is unleashing for two straight hours. Given the instrumentation and the relatively new status of this group, Broomriding is more thriving for being broken up into shorter segments. The album as a whole can propel a listener who can then go back and assess the merit of the individual ideas presented. Certainly there are few better versions of Dolphy material extant than these. Schlippenbach has an aura around him. He is the consummate European musician who has essentially created, recreated and will create once more the genre of improvised music. Two albums and two concepts, worlds apart, coalesce beneath his fingers.
Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz New York, January 2004

 

Top Tens 2003
Nr. 7. Globe Unity Orchestra. Globe Unity 2002. Intakt
Martin Wisckol, The Orange Country Register, USA, Dec. 26, 3003

 

 

Then and Now
It has been almost 37 years since Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s first effort to merge big band orchestration with free improvisation. That endeavor hasn’t seen much of commercial circulation since its original 1966 release on the German Saba label, and it is a wonder why. For a group so influential to the improvising small ensemble and large group of the past thirty years, why are more Globe Unity Orchestra recordings not widely available? Yes, there is a true, traceable lineage with respect to Schlippenbach’s early works, and yes, a large number of today’s free improvisors owe the group an incalculable debt with respect to techniques, interactivity, and compositional methods. But the beauty of such music is that its intent is, in large part, to never be repeated, at least in performance. There exists a sizable catalog of Globe Unity recordings, many of which have only been heard by the chosen few (or those with a nice enough disposable income). Be that as it may, enough copies of Globe Unity (Saba, 1966) were pressed originally and in sparing reissue efforts that a decent copy is bound to show up from time to time in the offbeat vinyl store or on electronic auction websites.

Globe Unity was a launching pad for Schlippenbach’s musical ideas, and the music within could be said to reflect his inability to sit still. Consisting of two long-form orchestrations, the record shows two opposing sides to the composer: “Globe Unity” is the side of choice and stands as a key predecessor to today’s “free” improvisation, while “Sun” suggests an early interest in the influences of mid-century “world” music in the Europeans’ task of making a unique, modern voice for itself outside of coexisting American forms.

Together, the album is far from cohesive but the numbers on their own make for an interesting, if not head-first entry into European improv’s semi-recent history. Personnel ranges from genre giants (Peter Brötzmann, Günter Hampel, Manfred Schoof, Peter Kowald, Willem Breuker) to the utterly obscure (Willi Lietzmann, Kris Wanders, Jaki Liebezeit, Mani Neumeier).

The distinctive characteristic of “Globe Unity” is its definable (by today’s standards) structure, a series of improvised solos and off-pairings that come and go by Schlippenbach’s direction within the framework of a large, written score. The solos are exciting enough, full of youthful energy, and the musicians’ interest in making individual statements is not only conducive to the disposition of the piece, but manifest. “Sun”, on the other hand, is a delicate piece of music driven by percussive instrumentation, and marked by a “chorus” that features piano, bass and tuba. Though not an essential piece of music, one wonders how many of yesterday’s Transatlantic groups (Ganelin, Breuker’s, et al.) were inspired by “Sun”. Certainly it has its place in associated lineages.

Considered together, Globe Unity and Globe Unity 2002 (Intakt, 2003) are joined in their own polarities. They have in common their leader, and the now-recognizable voices of a handful of the players. Otherwise, one could be said to be the end of the other. In 37 years the methods have changed, so have the inspirations, and let’s not forget the global environment in which the musicians operate.

Globe Unity 2002 is the controlled free-for-all we have come to expect from such veteran European improvisors as Brötzmann, Johannes Bauer, Paul Rutherford and Evan Parker. Apparently, Schlippenbach laid down no motifs, no scores, and no rules in the moments prior to the concert. Lending further to the concept of external-stimuli-as-guidance is an event shared among musicians and audience: the recent passing of a local music enthusiast and proponent. The music simply opens with the pianist in calm arrhythmic reflection, and the rest characteristically follow. Along the way there are collective breaks, stop-time entries from soloists, subset exchanges among the personnel, and the occasional liftoff to higher planes. The music is as exciting as it is nerve-wracking: at times the horns seem hell-bent on disagreeable pitches through which to howl and holler, others seem exercises in just-how-atonal-can-we-get?. But these episodes are hallmarks of the tradition, and no similar occasion would be complete without them. It should be added that Schlippenbach and the unlikely returnee, a reflective Manfred Schoof, maintain a sense of poise and control throughout all 74 minutes, and, somehow, steer the others from the occasional search-and-destroy operation. To pull from another Schlippenbach title, the 2002 music is, simply, living.

If one thing has remained a constant for the Globe Unity Orchestra in four decades, it is the undeniable presence of political undertones in the music, a trait decidedly apart from concurrent collectives. Michael Mantler’s group, the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, the Breuker Kollektief, the Instant Composers Pool; these all owe in part to Schlippenbach’s vision. And though a large part of that vision has been shared and built upon, none of those have been able to convey their own socio-political environments as pervasively. With Globe Unity, those influences are unmistakable. The riotous atmosphere of the 2002 recording translates well the global instability in which it was operating, while the 1966 session tells of non-conformity and an effort to find permanence – even within the music’s own disorder – in a rapidly evolving musical environment. Globe Unity’s success in expression could be measured by the chances it takes, and music rarely gets as close to tangibility.
Alan Jones, Bagatellen, January 2004, USA

 

Seit seinem letzten Auftritt in Chicago waren eineinhalb Jahrzehnte vergangen, was der Intensität und Spielfreude des Globe Unity Orchesters aber keinen Abbruch tat. Der Live-Mitschnitt vom Konzert in Aachen im Januar 2002 vermittelt viel von der Aufbruchstimmung des europäischen Jazz Mitte der sechziger Jahre. Just jener Zeit, als Alexander von Schlippenbach Globe Unity ins Leben rief. Inzwischen ist das selten auftretende Orchester zum Nonett geschrumpft, was den beindruckenden Gesamtklang keineswegs schmälert, allenfalls ein paar Klangfarben vermissen lässt. Von der ersten Stunde sind lediglich Peter Brötzmann, Manfred Schoof, Evan Parker und Paul Rutherford noch dabei, die "neuen" Musiker, allesamt ausgewiesene Improvisatoren (Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, Hannes Bauer, Paul Lovens, Paul Lytton) fügen sich nahtlos in Schlippenbachs Konzept ein. Nach schleppend "monkischem" Beginn bringen sich die einzelnen Solisten in den orchestralen Rahmen ein. Ihre Statements, meist zwei an der Zahl, werden perkussiv unterstützt und münden mal in ein donnerndes Tutti, mal werden sie in drängende Instrumentalgespräche verwickelt. Langeweile kommt in diesen siebzig Minuten nie auf, stets ist Spannung vorhanden. Dafür sorgen die einzelnen Solisten, die unterschiedliche Stimmungen und Gefühle verbreiten.
Reiner Kobe, Jazzpodium, 11/03

 

 

Globe Unity Orchestra at Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center,
New York, USA

If more people had known about it sooner, this show would have been the most anticipated gig of the year, if not the last five. As part of Columbia University’s Festival of Global Jazz, a fervent crowd trekked up to Washington Heights’ Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center Sep. 20th, 2007for the first NYC appearance of the mighty Globe Unity Orchestra (GUO) since 1983. The brainchild of pianist Alex von Schlippenbach, the GUO has been in irregular existence since 1966 incorporating Europe and America’s finest improvisers into its heady squall. Schlippenbach was there of course as were original members Gerd Dudek and Manfred Schoof with longtime member Evan Parker filling out the hornline. The other members, some even playing with the group for the first time, represented many roots and branches of the free jazz tree that was planted by Schlippenbach over 40 years ago: Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Axel Dörner, Daniele D’Agaro, Jeb Bishop, Nils Wogram, Paul Lytton and Paal Nilssen-Love. While free jazz has been in existence since the ‘50s in some form, it has been distilled into its purest and most intense form through the efforts of the GUO, an amazing experience on record but exponentially more powerful in person. No desire to look at one’s watch, the 65-minute set was filled with too many amazing moments to absorb, much less list. You can stop listening to music after something like this.
Andrey Henkin, All About Jazz, USA, October 7, 2007

 

 

 

Chris Searle, Morning Star, Great Britain, April 22, 2014


 

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