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27 Ancestors call out with beats To those with ears and soul Gather my children and dance To the sound of radical truth Stories of pain and new hope Dance the love laid before us This is an organic message A child of the tribe eventually Becomes an elder, respected Fusing the Diaspora of sounds Into unity for those who know That what we were then And who we are now Is like water flowing endlessly Remixing in birth, death and rebirth The dance of life, more beautiful And more dangerous than fire We groove in the cleansing heat Moving mightily as one TRIBAL GROOVE: D-BOP ROOTS Tribe was a labor of love, learning, and kindred spirits. Tribe was about cool grooves and creative music, but it was also about community, rebellion, and black self-determination. Those were edgy days. The civil rights movement had passed its peak and black power brought a more assertive attitude to many African American enterprises—including jazz. An indefatigable curiosity gripped musicians of all stripes. The doors of creativity and experience were wide open, and funky soul-rock had entered the jazz pantheon along with the swing, bebop, postbop, and avantgarde of earlier years. Detroit was an integral part of that jazz history , having served as a particularly fertile breeding ground for bebop. Pianist Barry Harris, saxophonist Yusef Lateef, guitarist Kenny Burrell, trumpeter Thad Jones, drummer Elvin Jones, and trumpeter Donald Byrd were among the Detroit jazz luminaries who went out and created a path for others to follow. And they did follow, going out, coming back, and going out again,mixing the local influences with those across the musical spectrum and the world. Saxophonist Wendell Harrison was one Detroiter who headed out along the trail blazed by his forebears. In 1960, already a seasoned musician at eighteen,he split for New York,where he hooked up with the likes of Jack McDuff, Lloyd Price, Grant Green, Hank Crawford, Betty Carter, and Sun Ra. He lived in the lofts, which were gathering places for the musicians breaking free of their pasts and creating new sounds for the new age. They rebelled against the war in Vietnam, racial inequality, the capitalist system, and anything they perceived as getting in their way. That was the decade when Miles Davis created a revolutionary, popular, and successful fusion of Rebirth of Tribe Larry Gabriel 28 deTroıT jazz jazz and rock. Sun Ra also fused the genres mined by Davis, but Ra turned left at Saturn and spaced the music out, mixing electronic innovation with stretched-out bop, atonal harmonics, edgy modern dance, and fantasy-ridden poetry. Needless to say, few record labels were ready for the onslaught, and Ra had to hold his space-age big band together by touring and selling self-produced records at his exuberant, sensually overwhelming shows. Harrison reveled in all of these sounds, particularly learning from the do-it-yourself attitude of Sun Ra. Unfortunately, he also picked up a drug habit in the hard environs of New York City. While on the road in California, he joined the Synanon rehab community to kick heroin. After more than two years there, during which time he recorded a critically acclaimed album with Esther Phillips, he headed back east in 1970. Wary of New York and its temptations, he stopped off in Detroit “just for a minute” to visit family and friends. It was a hell of a minute; Harrison still hasn’t left the Motor City almost four decades later. Harrison reconnected with friends, including pianist Harold McKinney, a longtime cultural warrior who chose to remain on the home front rather than wandering the country, and trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, who had settled in Detroit after years on the road with Ray Charles and others. They found a job for Harrison teaching music to young people at the nonprofit Metropolitan Arts Complex. He busied himself building a curriculum and composing choral and big band works. “I was trying to stay busy as hell to keep from self-destructing,” Harrison remembers. He noticed that the once-vibrant club scene had disappeared along with the once-cohesive African American community that supported it. Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, the black neighborhood and its thriving business district, had been destroyed by urban renewal. Hastings Street, with its myriad jazz and blues clubs,was wiped out and replaced with I-75.Musicians no longer had the community outlets that kept them working and their music vibrant. REBELLION...


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