The Globe Unity Orchestra: Intergalactic Blow (JAPO 60039)

Intergalactic Blow

The Globe Unity Orchestra
Intergalactic Blow

Toshinori Kondo trumpet
Kenny Wheeler trumpet
Günter Christmann trombone
George Lewis trombone, effects
Albert Mangelsdorff trombone
Bob Stewart tuba
Gerd Dudek flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
Evan Parker soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky flute, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone
Alexander von Schlippenbach piano
Alan Silva bass
Paul Lovens drums
Recorded June 4, 1982 at Studio 105, Radio France/Paris.
Recording engineer: Jean Deloron
Mixing engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Thomas Stöwsand

Beginning in 1966, the Globe Unity Orchestra sparked a four decades-long run that intersected with the JAPO label on three counts. For this, the group’s second for ECM’s sister label, founder Alexander von Schlippenbach hand-selected a set of free improvisations emitted in a Paris studio in June of 1982.

Even more noticeable this time around are the contributions of its brass players, especially trumpeters Kenny Wheeler and Toshinori Kondo (who takes the place of Manfred Schoof from the last record). Their methods of integration on the opening track, “Quasar,” set a tone that is dashed as quickly as it is established. From the farthest reaches of inner space, the musicians work their way to the front altar of the mind, where Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky’s baritone files its utterances in living order. Tuba (Bob Stewart) and piano (von Schlippenbach) speak out of time—one from the future, the other for the past. Such is the ethos of the hour.

Even at its densest, Globe Unity makes sure to leave a door open for even the most transient listener, so that “Phase A” and “Phase B” feel no more connected by name than they are by process. It is their very incongruity that partners them in the album’s grander scheme, interpretable only after the fact. Their gestures are more jagged, turned from shining to brilliant by Evan Parker’s unmistakable soprano. Like the group as a whole, he takes rising levels of intensity as opportunities for sane reflection, thus allowing himself the strongest benefit of performance: being heard.

Drummer Paul Lovens is another master in this pool of many, adding to the 19-minute “Mond Im Skorpion” a scripture’s worth of microscopy. Amid this bramble of riffs and utterances, he treats every melodic branch as a fuse to be lit, and every lit fuse as a pathway toward new understanding of the improviser’s craft. Von Schlippenbach is again noteworthy for attuning to that same inner habitus, an environmental assemblage where one has to know where one has been in order to move toward the unknown. For even as reeds and brass elbow the horizon with the force of sunset, they hold the following morning in their chests. A snake-charming soprano seems to mock the wayward Orientalist who sees travel solely as a means of sticking another postcard in the scrapbook. Indeed, you will find no tourists here—only the artisans selling their wares on the outskirts of town, far from the crowded bazaar, where a cacophonous ending sings, proclaims, and teases every tether of dusk so that it might pull out another day from under our feet.

Globe Unity keeps everything clear and, thanks further to Thomas Stöwsand’s flawless production, ensures that every shout is also a whisper, and vice versa.

Globe Unity Orchestra: Improvisations (JAPO 60021)


Globe Unity

Gerd Dudek soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute
Paul Lovens drums
Günther Christmann trombone
Paul Rutherford trombone
Tristan Honsinger cello
Peter Kowald bass, tuba
Kenny Wheeler trumpet
Evan Parker soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
Albert Mangelsdorff trombone
Peter Brötzmann alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Buschi Niebergall bass
Michel Pilz bass clarinet
Manfred Schoof trumpet
Derek Bailey guitar
Alexander von Schlippenbach piano
Recorded September 1977 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer Martin Wieland
Produced by Thomas Stöwsand

Ashes, ashes, we all fall…up? Yes, says the Globe Unity Orchestra. The autonomous improvisation collective was formed in 1966 and has shifted ever since with as much openness to the unknown as the music it unleashes. Over the years, it has seen a veritable who’s who of modern jazz flit through its cage, including Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy, Enrico Rava, and Toshinori Kondo. Because of the wealth of riches at its employ, the GUO’s eponymous unity undermines the need to dwell on individual talents. All the same, this early JAPO release, recorded in 1977, is an endearing document for, among other reasons, so nakedly marking the early careers of its great improvisers. Whether through Michel Pilz’s visceral baying, Peter Brötzmann’s gurgling of midnight oil, Derek Bailey’s jangly aphorisms, Kenny Wheeler’s playful fancy, or Evan Parker’s sopranic emulsions, the character of every voice remains prominent—astonishing when one thinks of just how many are involved.

Together these musicians are something greater than the sum of their parts, each an integral element in an alchemy that espouses the new by tapping into something that predates all of us. Throughout the album’s four numbered improvisations, the GUO sharpens ears as if they were pencils. With the epic concentration and polar range of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, “Improvisation 1” clings to some alien monolith in pure instinctual discovery, while “Improvisation 2” teeters in the sonic equivalent of a groggy yawn. It pulls every limb from the muck of dreams until it pops with renewed life. The feeling of tension is palpable: plucking, striking, and exhaling into infinity. Yet where the first half seems chained to an alternate reality, “Improvisation 3” taps into those cortical implosions sooner and measures their perimeter before diving headlong into the resulting froth. It is a brilliant percussive mash of banshees and waterfalls.

“Improvisation 4” is the album’s pièce de résistance. Longer than the first three combined, it teases with jazzy beginnings. Like the third, however, it locates the problem early on and unpacks it with guttural aptitude. The more one surrenders to this music, the more it splits into pieces and slides down vocal tracts like children at a playground. The depth of color and texture—of sustained light flecked with disturbing rhythmic shadows—dwarfs all that came before. The intimacy, too, with which it ends is arresting: only cello and bass overlapping to the clatter of a teapot without a whistle, burying themselves as deeply as they can until the bulldozers arrive.

A worthy curio for your cabinet.