Society of Sound: Universal Togetherness Band

Between 1979 and 1982, Universal Togetherness Band tracked unearthly portions of their sprawling songbook for bewildered students in Columbia College’s audio engineering program. Storming the gates of Chicago’s premier recording studios, the erudite party band explored permutations of soul, jazz-fusion, new wave, and disco with little regard for studio rates or the availability of magnetic tape. Universal Togetherness Band captures the brightest, never-before-heard moments from this visionary group’s 5-semester recording bender.

At the Universal Togetherness Band’s nucleus was Andre Gibson, a Chicago native who had gone from curious keyboardist to musical polyglot during his comprehensive musical education at Chicago Vocational School. Upon graduating in 1973, he enrolled at Illinois State-Bloomington, where he became part of the University’s exploratory Black Art Jazz Performers. Classmates, twin brothers, and fellow Chicago natives Fred and Leslie Misher became Gibson’s allies in a new off-campus group, Colorvision. Returning to Chicago mid-decade, Gibson assembled the Universal Togetherness Band with the Misher twins on bass and guitar (respectively), and his younger brother Arnold Gibson on drums. Upon enrolling in Columbia College’s music business program, he met guitarist/harmonica player Paul Hannover, who became the group’s fifth and final member.

While traipsing through Columbia’s cafeteria in the spring of 1979, Andre Gibson spotted a flyer announcing that faculty from the engineering department were seeking bands to serve as specimens for recording majors needing to clock studio hours. Shortly after, UTB auditioned for Malcolm Chisholm, the pioneering instructor of Columbia’s sound engineering program. Born in Chicago in 1929, Chisholm served as an electronics technician in the Coast Guard before turning to the music business in 1955. He was well regarded for his stints at not only Universal, but Chess and Paragon, and was celebrated in the field for his humour and expertise, which carried over into influential articles, diatribes, and public rants. In the studio, he was a hard-nosed instructor who hovered over his pupils, relishing the teaching opportunities afforded by their missteps. It was a tough brand of love, and thin- skinned students fared poorly, as did those allergic to profanity. Andre embraced the unorthodox lessons in mixing and mic placement, and thrived under Chisholm’s direction and mentorship on both sides of the console.

Universal Togetherness Band. Image courtesy of the Numero Group.

Sessions occurred either at Chisholm’s alma mater, Universal Recording, or newcomer Zenith/dB. Both studios had their advantages. A session at Zenith could run overtime, a luxury rarely afforded at the densely booked Universal. And while most of Universal’s high-profile clientele brought or rented their own instruments, there was always plenty of stray, exotic gear lying around Zenith. So long as Andre paid for the magnetic tape, the wild and imaginative Universal Togetherness Band sessions were his to keep.

(Mixed from the original multi-track sessions by Sean Marquand and Eber Pinheiro. Mastered by Jeff Lipton and Maria Rice at Peerless Mastering in Boston, MA)

Universal Togetherness Band (BW81) released on Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound in February 2015.

Credits

Numero Group is a company with a mission – an extraordinary record label that restored Universal Togetherness Band and brought it back from the archives:

The Numero Group is an archival record label founded in 2003 in Chicago, Illinois, and it is a dogged, obsessive faction in an ongoing war. Our mission is dirty and labour-intensive…and it’s urgent as all hell. Time kills off precious bits of passed-over sound, story, and ephemera every day, just as fast as we can haul out of exile our sprawling treasury of under-heard recordings—along with the musicians, writers, and entrepreneurs who created them.

With more than 175 titles in our diverse catalog of LPs, CDs, cassettes, 45s, 12″s, and DVDs, every Numero production is a modest miracle of localized sound creation, a shedding of fresh light on the efforts of men and women who sang, played, recorded, and peddled—largely to shallow rewards, if any. Each track lives and breathes at the nexus of story and song, preserving human work and hope gone lost into freshly etched grooves. Every recording we unearth is painstakingly re-mastered and carefully researched, with obsessive attention to narrative and factual detail unmatched in the so-called reissue field. By self-imposed law, everything numbered by Numero is a stunning new artifact of image and word, tailored to the sounds it safeguards.

By Jon Kirby

 

By Online Editor

Published on Thu, 19 February 15

Further reading

Debut EP by Montparnasse Musique out now on Real World X

Featuring collaborations with Kasai Allstars, Konono Nº1, Basokin and Mbongwana Star.

Djivan Gasparyan (1928 – 2021)

The Armenian duduk player collaborated with Michael Brook on the album Black Rock in 1998.

Track of the day: ‘Bitumba’ by Montparnasse Musique

Bitumba is the second release on our new imprint, Real World X, and features Congelese band Mbongwan...

Nick Page (1960-2021)

Nick's work can be heard on albums by Dub Colossus, Syriana, Los de Abajo and Temple of Sound.