Listening to these recordings from 1975 I am both surprised and impressed at how “fresh” and timeless this music still is, powerful, dynamic, on a high level. The character of each “composition” is determined by its namesake, and rehearsed and recorded with a witty playfulness and wry turn of mind.
The sound is brilliant and in keeping with a Big Band, Avant-garde Jazz at its best, played by musicians who have shaped and determined Jazz and Free Jazz.
The “Globe Unity Orchestra” is a Free Jazz orchestra founded by Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1966 which has ever since, in more than four decades, continuously “reinvented” itself while maintaining the basic idea of free, collective improvisation formulated by Schlippenbach.
Musicians from different countries, invited by Alexander von Schlippenbach and prompted to play with/work on the project Globe Unity have continued to change the orchestra in terms of its sound and its ways of playing. A permanent process which still continues to the present day. And they have a legacy of compositions which were rehearsed but always left a lot of freedom for the individual musician. They were either completely formulated or written down in the form of graphic notation which, first of all, had to be filled in with music.
“The major part, roughly about 80 % of our work and concerts are completely improvised pieces while there is also always the possibility of rehearsing compositions, if the opportunity arises”. (A.v.S.)
While the first performance of the Globe Unity Orchestra, playing the composition from where it gets its name, “Globe Unity” by Alexander von Schlippenbach was a more or less well-rehearsed concert of the Manfred Schoof Quintet in those days (with Gerd Dudek, Buschi Niebergall, Jackie Liebezeit and Schlippenbach) and the Peter Brötzmann Trio (with Peter Kowald and Mani Neumeier), in the following year Alexander von Schlippenbach surprised everyone with a totally collective improvisation of the Globe Unity Orchestra.
“I was trying to find a way of working with a large ensemble of players and find out how they could work together and play a kind of music which was worth listening to – and not just noise.
Big orchestras are of special interest to me and the Globe Unity Orchestra is particularly important to me. It was the first time a Big Band had played this kind of orchestral music. In the present Globe Unity Orchestra all the musicians are soloists working together on a spontaneously created structure. Obviously, it has a long history”. (A.v.S.)
It has been difficult to maintain such a large body of sound as the Globe Unity over all those years in its original structure. First of all financial limitations restrict the performance possibilities. Nonetheless, the “hard core” of the orchestra, including Evan Parker and Paul Lovens, together with Schlippenbach constitutes the basic fabric of the orchestra. This allows Schlippenbach to continuously try out new line ups of the band and demonstrate the flexibility of the orchestra. Each instrumentalist of the Big Band is an internationally acclaimed soloist, as on these Baden-Baden recordings from 1975.
In the course of a new self styled organisation led by the musicians, a series of workshops organized by Peter Brötzmann and Peter Kowald took place in Wuppertal (since 1973) which allowed continuing work on the attainments of Free Jazz.
After a few attempts to combine this with other genres (Folk music, worker’s songs, Eisler, Weill, etc) the Globe Unity returned to Jazz from 1974 onwards which had, in fact, always been the motivation and purpose of this band.
This release of radio recordings of the orchestra together with guest soloists Anthony Braxton and Enrico Rava for the Südwestfunk Baden-Baden from the year 1975 is a good documentation of this very productive phase of the Globe Unity Orchestra.
The big band was able to rehearse for four days under the optimal conditions of a radio studio and record different compositions from the musicians involved.
1. “Marañao” (Enrico Rava)
Soloists: Schoof, Rava, Dudek
2. “U-487” (Anthony Braxton)
Soloists: Schlippenbach, Lovens, Wheeler, Braxton, Schoof, Brötzmann
3. “Jahrmarkt” (Peter Kowald)
Soloists: Braxton, Mangelsdorff
4. “Hanebüchen” (Alexander von Schlippenbach)
Soloists: Dudek (flute)
5. “The Forge” (Alexander von Schlippenbach)
Soloists: Parker, Wheeler, Schlippenbach
Exactly as on these recordings, the Globe Unity of the year 2010 has as well remained stamped by the exuberant style of playing of the musicians and continues to pursue the principles of free improvisation with aesthetic obstinacy.
Alexander von Schlippenbach's résumé so far:
“…a lot has fallen by the wayside, but whatever has survived has been worth it and has become a fixed indestructible inventory, so to speak. It is the collective playing, the fruits of the many years of work, the results of musical amalgamation processes, melted down over a hot flame and re-crystallized.”
Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton