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Alexander von Schlippenbach / Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity - 50 Years

Mark Corroto By

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Pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra (GUO) employs a similar head-scratching process to that utilized to make geuze, a much-treasured Belgian beer. Both elicit the "how did they do that?" question, and both seem to be a gift from Mother Nature. Schlippenbach brings together a choice assemblage of improvisers, like the ingredients of guesze (wheat and three-year-old female cone hops), The beer and Globe Unity Orchestra are then animated by spontaneous processes. With the guesze, it is a fermentation by wild yeast found in the atmosphere, specifically from the valley of Zenne, west of Brussels. When this beer was first created back in the fifteenth century, what we know as yeast fermentation must have seemed like magic. GUO also draws on a type of spontaneous fermentation, one that we call free improvisation. Thus far, at least, there is no science to explain this magic.

This recording—made some fifty years after the pianist created a big band by combining the Manfred Schoof Quintet with the Peter Brötzmann Trio—is further proof that the mysterious musical alchemy continues. Sadly, some of the musicians that made up past editions of GUO—like Buschi Niebergall, Peter Kowald, Paul Rutherford, Kenny Wheeler and Derek Bailey—have passed, and others including Anthony Braxton, Han Bennink, Karl Berger, and Brötzmann, are no longer members. Luckily the spontaneous fermentation is an ongoing and renewable process with the introduction of new(er) orchestra members such as Axel Dorner, Rudi Mahall, and Jean-Luc Cappozzo.

And what is this free improvisation fermentation? Like those fifteenth-century Belgians, we have no scientific knowledge of how the transformation takes place. These eighteen musicians came together for the 2016 Berlin Jazzfest and produced forty-four minutes of instant composition out of thin air. They did so without noise, without overcrowding, and without a score. Credit must be given to the sound supervisor Wolfgang Hoff and engineer Peter Schladebach for capturing this large ensemble with so much detail that it allows us to identify Gerd Dudek's saxophone, clarinet, and flute, Mahall's bass clarinet, and Evan Parker's soprano saxophone. Those with more attuned ears can distinguish between Paul Lovens and Paul Lytton's drum work. GUO regulates its acceleration throughout, controlling the momentum, the volume, the soloing, and the matching of various players and sounds. Fifty years on, GUO seems to be tapping an inexhaustible source of magic.

Track Listing: Globe Unity 50 years

Personnel: Henrik Walsdorff: alto saxophone; Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute; Daniele D’Agaro: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Gerd Dudek: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophones, clarinet, flute; Evan Parker: soprano saxophone; Rudi Mahall: bass clarinet; Axel Dörner: trumpet; Manfred Schoof: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jean-Luc Cappozzo: trumpet; Tomasz Stańko: trumpet; Ryan Carniaux: trumpet; Christof Thewes: trombone; Wolter Wierbos: trombone; Gerhard Gschlössl: trombone; Carl Ludwig Hübsch: tuba; Alexander von Schlippenbach: piano; Paul Lovens: drums; Paul Lytton: drums.

Title: Globe Unity - 50 Years | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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