globe unity




Both Recorded: March 31, 1975 at the “Workshop Freie Musik.”

Kenny Wheeler / trumpet, Steve Lacy / soprano saxophone, Evan Parker / soprano and tenor saxophones, Gerd Dudek / tenor saxophone, Albert Mangelsdorff / trombone, Paul Rutherford / trombone, Alex Schlippenbach / piano, Peter Kowald / bass and tuba, Paul Lovens / percussion.

The first Globe Unity Orchestra came into being in 1966 to perform the piece “Globe Unity” (written by Alexander von Schlippenbach) for that year’s Berlin Jazz Festival. The piece was later recorded (along with another of Schlippenbach’s compositions) for the European SABA label (Globe Unity, SB 15109) and, as a work that successfully bridges the demands of orchestral music with those of “free jazz,” it stands alongside the early music of Mike Mantler and Carla Bley (hear, if possible, Communication, Fontana 681 011, recorded 1964, and Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, JCOA, recorded 1968).


Photo: Gérard Rouy

Now, as then, the Orchestra seems to exist only for specific purposes at specific times. Its aesthetic direction, however (if one is to judge by these two LPs), is not strictly speaking “orchestral” at all. At best, the music consists of a series of orchestral sketches that encompass a wide range of textures, shapes, and colors. The full power of the orchestra is virtually never utilized, though at times all of the members do play together freely. Generally, the music moves through different instrumental combinations, setting up various plots and sub-plots, somewhat dramatic on its face, yet seemingly non-dramatic in intent (or perhaps only humorously so), and certainly without any entirely satisfying climactic resolutions. This seems as true for Lacy’s programatic “Rumbling” (for Joe Louis) as for the tongue-in-cheek “Alexander’s Marschbefehl” or “Evidence” (all Volume 1), or for Parker’s more open-ended forms (Volume 2). The problem is that the music does not always manage to be more than the sum of its parts – though I suspect that some of the “disconnectedness” has been deliberately structured in.


At least one of the high points is the piano work of Schlippenbach whose frenetic heavy handedness takes up where Don Pullen left off a decade ago. There’s also some fine work by Kenny Wheeler, some interesting Steve Lacy, and nice percussion work by Paul Lovens. Evan Parker’s playing, however, seems occasionally uneasy (and perhaps a bit forced) in this setting; part of the reason may be that its conceptual implications go beyond the more obvious freedoms of direction and context which this music puts forth (and which has been put forth in some form for quite some time). That is not to say that these are not viable extensions of those ideas, only that Parker’s work at its best (like Derek Bailey’s or a few others’) proposes that those innovations be applied within the framework of any single line, phrase or motif: a revolution in the revolution, as it were. But not all of Evan’s work is even cast in such a radical mode, and that which is seems only partly convincing.

Still, the sense I have of this music is that it is somewhat deeper in intent than one might give it credit for on first hearing. Its own formal contribution (similar perhaps to that of Peter Brotzmann’s) is to attempt to push to the limits contextual and conceptual co-existences, extending them to an area bordering on the absurd. It’s not quite musical anarchy, but something like that might be the next logical step. As it is, this is a somewhat unfinished music, interesting enough for what it suggests, but not yet its fullest realization.

Henry Kuntz, 1976


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