In Detroit circa 1971, jazz musicians Phil Ranelin and Wendell Harrison created a self-funded enterprise known as Tribe. Tribe was simultaneously a record label, a band, a magazine, and a clearinghouse for community information in the Motor City. Other members of the creative community joined and read like a who's who of jazz in the city at the time: Doug Hammond, Harold McKinney, Marcus Belgrave, Roy Brooks, Kenny Cox, Charles Eubanks, David Durrah, Charles Moore (a co-founder of the City's legendary Artist's Workshop in the early 1960s with John Sinclair and poet George Tysh), Daryl Dybka, Buddy Budson, Ron Jackson, R.J. "Bud" Spangler, Will Austin, Jeamel Lee, the poetry group the Black Messengers, Billy Turner, Ron Brooks, Lopez Leon, and Ed Pickens, among others. These musicians played on one another's albums. It was a collective and cultural organization in the same way the AACM was in Chicago, the Underground Musician's Association was in Los Angeles, and the Black Artist's Group was in St. Louis. In other words, this was a creative organization to be reckoned with.
The Tribe label issued some killer -- and now highly collectible -- LPs: Message from the Tribe (1973), credited to Ranelin and Harrison; Belgrave's Gemini II (reissued by the U.K.'s Soul Jazz label on CD and vinyl); Harrison's An Evening with the Devil (1975); Harold McKinney's Voices and Rhythms of the Creative Profile (1974); Doug Hammond's Reflections in the Sea of Nurnen with David Durrah (1975); and Ranelin's Vibes from the Tribe, (1975) reissued on CD in 2001 by Hefty with a second disc of remixes.
There was a total of 10 titles on the Tribe label before the collective split up -- mostly due to a lack of opportunities to tour and play. Ranelin moved to Los Angeles, where he has continued to record and has become a de facto member of the Build an Ark collective and has played on both their albums. There have been numerous LP re-issues -- Harrison's album, Hammond's, and even the Mixed Bag record which came out in 1976, but as to whether these are authorized or not isn't clear, and the originals fetch outrageous sums in auctions. Universal Sound and P-Vine have also officially done CDs of certain Tribe recordings including the Message from the Tribe anthology (pictured above) with a reproduction of the magazine inside the deluxe slipcase with the CD.
Detroit producer and DJ Carl Craig was able to reunite the original living members of the Tribe -- Ranelin, Harrison, and Belgrave -- and put on a concert earlier this fall with Hammond as part of the performance. He also produced a recording project on the Community Projects imprint, a division of his Planet E label. The first 12" single is just hitting stores this month, called "Livin' in a New Day," featuring the Tribe with additional players Karriem Riggins, Kelvin Sholar, John Arnold, and Damon Warmack, as well as synth player C2. The B-side of the single is a radio edit by Carlos Ninos, musician, DJ, producer, and a co-founder of Build an Ark. The single is just the beginning, since a full-length drops in early 2008 on the same label with Craig at the deck helm. The title may be Return of the Tribe, but has yet to be finalized. It is also unclear as to whether the group will tour.
For more Tribe info, and to hear the A-side other cuts from the group's discography, check their MySpace page, and get excited. This is no ordinary reunion; all of these men remain vital and productive musicians, community workers, and teachers. This is an event!