How the Numero Group tracked down obscure Chicago disco-funk outfit Universal Togetherness Band

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A couple years back, Jon Kirby was in the midst of an archaeological excavation, the kind of deep cultural dig that has become the hallmark of local archival record label the Numero Group. He'd recently come across The Chicago Party, an unearthed UHF variety show featuring musical and comedy acts that was filmed at a south-side nightclub in 1982. Numero would release selections from that footage in early 2015 as the DVD "mixtape" Ultra-High Frequencies. But the dig was not done.

Universal Togetherness Band - COURTESY THE NUMERO GROUP
  • Courtesy the Numero Group
  • Universal Togetherness Band

As is true of many of the label's projects, one discovery led to the next. Disco-funk group Universal Togetherness Band, who'd appeared on the show, stood out to Kirby. Not someone to leave any stone unturned, he set out to find the outfit's members, who happened to introduce themselves during their Chicago Party appearance.

Andre Gibson performing with Universal Togetherness Band on The Chicago Party - COURTESY THE NUMERO GROUP
  • Courtesy the Numero Group
  • Andre Gibson performing with Universal Togetherness Band on The Chicago Party

The Numero Group specializes in locating little-known musicians, and it wasn't long before Kirby rang up Universal Togetherness Band's lead vocalist, Andre Gibson. "One morning, I'm sitting here having my coffee and I get a phone call," Gibson says in a short documentary about the search by Chicago videographer Simon Brubaker. "The guy on the other end of the line says, 'Hey, are you the same Andre Gibson of Universal Togetherness Band?' I hadn't heard that name in almost 30 years." 
The cover of Universal Togetherness Band, released by the Numero Group in 2015 - COURTESY THE NUMERO GROUP
  • Courtesy the Numero Group
  • The cover of Universal Togetherness Band, released by the Numero Group in 2015

The connection led to Universal Togetherness Band, Numero's 2015 compilation of material tracked by students in Columbia College’s audio engineering program from 1979 to 1982.

Though brief, Brubaker's doc is a surprisingly poignant telling of Numero's rediscovery of a lost bit of Chicago's R&B history—and as the label itself says of the video, "an instruction manual for how to make a Numero Group release." 

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