Recorded at Jazzfest Berlin in 2016, this CD marks the half-century of an experiment that has become a great instrument and a flexible institution. In 1966, pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach was invited to present a free jazz big band at the same festival. He created the 13-member Globe Unity Orchestra, combining and expanding the Manfred Schoof Quintet and the Peter Brötzmann Trio. The group has frequently reconvened, with nine to 19 members, demonstrating that minimal organization and committed listening can create both order and ecstatic chaos. By current standards of inclusion, it represents a small “globe,” but it celebrates an ambition that began in the European Union and crossed the Iron Curtain.
This edition has 18 members – three from the 1966 assembly (Schlippenbach, saxophonist Gerd Dudek and Schoof, the band’s eldest member at 80 in 2016) and seven significantly younger newcomers. Among the members are some of the most lyrical of improvisers (Dudek and trumpeter Tomasz Stańko [both joined in 1970]) and great sonic explorers (saxophonist Evan Parker [also 1970] and trumpeter Axel Dörner ).
From the pointillist beginnings in which the members assemble in pecking isolation, the work moves organically through sub-ensembles and solo turns and moments of full-tilt incandescent glory. The trumpeters and trombonists – functioning with nothing resembling a conventional score – stretch a swing-era harmonic model to a mind-melding vision. The ultimate 44-minute piece celebrates the joy of untrammelled improvisation, testimony to the invention, openness and generosity of its members.