Label: P-Vine Records - PCD 23556 • Series: Black Ark Series • Format: CD Compilation • Country: Japan • Genre: Jazz • Style: Jazz-Funk
Wendell Harrison ponders the pile of memorabilia sprawling across his ancient dining room table. Old album covers, posters, a big stack of magazines, a smattering of program books lay in a jumble around the Detroit reed master, all testifying to a bygone era of Motor City Farewell To The Welfare - Wendell Harrison - Reawakening - Wendell Harrison Anthology and one of its seminal, albeit long gone, organizations: Tribe.
Harrison laughs his big laugh and shakes his head in amazement. But Harrison and his musical partner, trombonist Phil Ranelin, were stirring things up too.
They were building a jazz empire of sorts in Detroit-an unusual combination of musical and dramatic production, record label, promotional agency, magazine and splendid local bands known collectively as Tribe.
There were bebop lines up top, perched on a big funk bottom. In between were all sorts of freewheeling jazz with enough edge to grind the chrome off a Cadillac. There were echoes of Bitches Brew in what Tribe and other Detroit bands of the era were putting onto vinyl. These Detroiters eschewed tons of technique in favor of in-your-face expressions of deep feelings, Cut Across Shorty - Various - Rockabilly Stars - Vol.
1 from peace and love to unabashed political rage. After all, the city was still trying to get its footing back after the notorious riots. Now, 24 years after dissolving into what looked to be permanent obscurity, Tribe Records is suddenly getting hot.
Both discs still sound fresh and offer genuinely adventurous listening. Ranelin is pleased to see his earliest music available again. A thick booklet reprints articles from Tribe magazine-on Jesse Jackson, Watergate, Sun Ra, blacks and the economy, and legendary Detroit radio disc jockey Butterball, all reflecting a radical, Afro-American perspective.
Our people would be calling businesses from Farewell To The Welfare - Wendell Harrison - Reawakening - Wendell Harrison Anthology to 5 trying to sell advertising for the magazine, and then Daniel Dahmer - Cock Tales Freestyle 5 to 9 trying to sell tickets to the concerts.
Harrison, Ranelin and their musical and theatrical colleagues translated much of this creativity into album projects with similar titles. Some are now collected on the British Soul Jazz Tribe anthology. And a Japanese label, P-Vine, has also released more of the same material in that country under two volumes entitled Vibes From the Tribe. Titles already in the pipeline include Evening With the Devil and Message From the Tribe, as well as two later dates, Reawakening and Birth of a Fossil, both on the homegrown Rebirth label.
Ranelin says the city had quite a scene going on back then, even as it was collapsing and Motown Records was moving to Hollywood. When I got to Detroit there was a music scene where you could actually survive by playing. But when he got back home to Detroit, his biggest goal was to stay away from the heroin that Farewell To The Welfare - Wendell Harrison - Reawakening - Wendell Harrison Anthology made life in the Big Apple hell. Then I met Phil and started dealing with these records, then the magazine, and then we had a whole promotion department.
We snatched and grabbed on everything. When I looked around I had cement on my feet. Gradually Tribe-its business side started out as W. This combination band, label and promotional machine may have been a little scruffy and down-home, but it packed a strong musical punch remarkable for its unorthodoxy. Those organizations were like survival kits, really. Later on, Tribe started trying to play some commercial music, too.
But in the very beginning we were playing spirit music, art music. Hammond moved to Europe; Belgrave expanded his Jazz Development Workshop; and Ranelin moved to Los Angeles, where he became very busy touring with Freddie Hubbard and working with other musical groups. Harrison and his first wife, Pat, divorced-a big change given how deeply involved she had been in developing the business side of Tribe. Now we are dealing with radio. Some of his more recent work is also gaining national exposure.
Traveling the world playing some music is really what I thrive on. He also works in L. Harrison and Ranelin agree that, reissues aside, Tribe made a real difference in their professional careers. I am still trying to carry forward the concept we developed together there. If we could do it, they can do it, especially if they can find others who believe in the same sort of thing and band together enough.
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Skip to content. Wendell Harrison with bassist Rod Hicks. Phil Ranelin. JazzTimes Newsletter America's jazz resource, delivered to your inbox.
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