Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Globe Unity Orchestra

All Music Guide Biography by Steve Huey

One of the earliest large-group endeavors attempted in the European free jazz movement, the Globe Unity Orchestra was founded by German pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach in 1966, at first for the specific purpose of performing his composition "Globe Unity," which was commissioned for the Berliner Jazztage. Initially, the 19-piece orchestra combined saxophonist Peter Brotzmann's trio and trumpeter Manfred Schoof's quintet with a phalanx of other early giants of European free jazz (mostly from Germany); they included, among many others, trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, woodwind players Gunter Hampel and Willem Breuker, vibist Karl Berger, bassists Buschi Niebergall and Peter Kowald, and drummers Jaki Liebezeit (of the rock group Can) and Sven-Åke Johansson.

The initial performance was a historic and rousingly cacophonous success, and Von Schlippenbach kept the group going, serving as its musical director for most of the next two decades. Naturally, the membership fluctuated quite a bit; by the early '70s, the group had more of a British presence, with players like guitarist Derek Bailey, saxophonist Evan Parker, and trombonists Malcolm Griffiths and Paul Rutherford, plus trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and drummer Han Bennink. Von Schlippenbach left for a bit in 1971, but returned the following year, and the group began playing outside of Germany more often beginning in 1974, which also marked the point at which more of their music was preserved on record (much of it on FMP). As the orchestra evolved, it relied less and less on structured arrangements, eventually becoming completely free. However, since a 20th-anniversary celebration and recording session, the group has mostly been silent.


1966: Alexander Schlippenbach: Globe Unity, Saba/MPS
1967/70: Globe Unity 67 & 70, Atavistic/Unheard Music Series
1973: Live in Wuppertal, FMP 0160
1973: For example, FMP R123 (one track)
1974: Der alte Mann bricht ... sein Schweigen, FMP S4 (single)
1974: Hamburg '74, FMP 0650
1975: Bavarian Calypso/Good bye, FMP S6 (single)
1975: Rumbling, FMP CD 40
1975/1976: Jahrmarkt/Local Fair, Po Torch PTR/JWD 2
1977: Improvisations, JAPO 60021
1977: Pearls, FMP 0380
1979: Compositions, JAPO 60027
1982: Intergalactic Blow, JAPO 60039
1986: 20th anniversary, FMP CD45
2002: Globe Unity 2002, Intakt CD 086

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