“Evil has done harm to our people / evil has been wrong to black people” A Message From The Tribe was the maiden voyage for Wendell Harrison and Phil Ranelin’s Detroit jazz outpost Tribe Records, which aimed to give a platform to black musicians in the Detroit area with a democratic and communal spirit as an extension of the tribes in the villages of Africa. Harrison plays flute and tenor on all tracks, and Ranelin plays trombone and sings, and the pair each get a full side for their respective compositions. The record comes out hard on a pro-black tip with the opening track sporting lyrics like “for 400 years we sweated and screamed / to be like the white man we thought was our aim / but now a new generation has taken its place in this nation,“ delivered coolly by singer Jeamel Lee over a tranquil soul jazz arrangement. Jeamel returns on the equally laidback & smokey “Angela’s Dilemma” with even more sobering lyrics than before. “How Do We End All Of This Madness” ramps things up with a high rolling bassline, uptempo funk groove and Ranelin handling vocal duties in a style reminiscent of Gil Scott-Heron’s works from the same period. Side 2 (“Wife,” “Merciful,” “Beneficient”) is all-instrumental, presumably to allow the gravity of the situation described on side 1 to sink in, with Harrison’s lively sax and divine flute blowing to help the medicine go down. The composition and musicianship is outstanding, on par with any of Strata East’s best pieces, and the tunes shine bright despite the slightly lo-fi quality of the original recordings. Fully remixed and remastered with the blessings of Harrison and Ranelin; original pressings have long been designated “no way José” status (quick Discogs check: $1300), so jump on this while you can. Recommended.
- 1972 soul jazz holy grail from Tribe Records co-founders Phil Ranelin + Wendell Harrison
- black vinyl pressing
- remixed + remastered from original master tapes
- includes 12" booklet w/ extensive liner notes + rare photos
- music label: Now-Again Records 2022
reviewed by nick nightingale 10/2018