Monday, April 11, 2011


The original member's of the jazz ensemble Tribe
Saxophonist Wendell Harrison and trombonist Phil Ranelin formed Tribe in 1971. The jazz band performed Sundays at Alvin’s, a neighborhood hang out on Palmer St. frequented by artists, musicians and writers. Some of Detroit’s top jazz musicians were members of Tribe trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, bassist Doug Hammond and pianist Harold McKinney. The group played  a mix of jazz, funk, and Afro-Cuban music.

Harrison and Ranelin also published Tribe and ran a Tribe Records. The magazine had a political and social  bent consistent with the time, and the record label the put out a string of albums by individual members. “An Evening with the Devil (Harris),” “Voices and Rhythms of the Creative Profile,(McKinney)” “Gemini II,”(Belgrave) and “Vibe from the Tribe (Ranelin)”. In 1975, Tribe disbanded. The members move and had successful careers.

Sunday, at the Charles E. Wright Museum, in Detroit’s cultural center, three of Tribe’s original members Harrison, Belgrave and Ranelin reunited. With a banner rhythm section, they performed nearly two-hours. The museum was packed, showing Tribe still has a  following.

Harrison, Belgrave and Ranelin are old enough to collect social security, but musically they still have staying power. Besides, they are still remarkable improvisers. On their solos, they dug deep. Tribe performed mostly music Harrison and Ranelin wrote during Tribe’s heyday such as “The Ride,” “Vibe from the Tribe” and “Livin’ in a New Day”.

Tribe’s rhythm section pianist Geri Allen, bassist Robert Hurst, drummer Karriem Riggins and percussionist Okyerema Asante were outstanding. Asante is from Ghana. In the past, he’s performed with trumpeter Hugh Masekela’s, Fleetwood Mac, and the Jazz Crusaders. Asante amused the crowd playing a assortment of gadgets.

On “Vibe from the Tribe,” Allen and Riggins got into a lively exchange, which the crowd enjoyed. Both were wild.  Allen thrashed and banged the piano keys with her hands and elbows. She seemed determined to upstage Riggins. Allen was busy all evening. She bounced from the Fender Rhodes to the piano.

The guest spot by vocalist Joan Belgrave, bassist Ralphe Armstrong, guitarist John Arnold, and the Lisa McCall dancers was overall. Back in the day, Tribe always put on an exciting show. The reunion concert lived up to that reputation.

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