On its ninth anniversary, a slimmed-down (due to budget constraints only) version of the Globe Unity Orchestra performed at the Berlin Free Music Festival. Ironically enough (since this group was shrunk for the occasion), the fest's theme that year was on the trombone in the context of larger ensembles. It is only fitting, then, that the set should open with a Misha Mengelberg composition from their first year, featuring the illustrious Albert Mangelsdorff on trombone. The tune, a messed-up half march and half polka dedicated to Alexander von Schlippenbach (the pianist here) that was written upon the Globe Unity's inception, sounds oddly out of place with the rest of the program, which relies so heavily on free improvisation. But that's a plus: Since the idea was to play with as few restraints as possible compositionally and in terms of arrangements, this work of Mengelberg's offers a view of what the Globe Unity had to perform against. Playful as it is, it sets up a deathly serious group of improvisational encounters that jar the very foundations of the orchestra. There are the cut-to-the-teeth dueling sopranos of Steve Lacy and Evan Parker on Lacy's "Rumbling" and the dreamy yet visionary cascade of barely coherent (or contained) lyricism on Parker's "Into the Valley" and "...of dogs, dreams, and death," with a gorgeous long solo by Kenny Wheeler. Finally, there is von Schlippenbach's stormy reading and arrangement of Monk's "Evidence," which features Lacy and Mangelsdorff taking the pianist on the harmonic ride of his life. This is a magical concert, full of humor, pathos, and the strident push for free improv above all else -- and the case gets made very convincingly.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek