Making musical history at Art X: Tribe reunion & more

With Art X beginning with its opening reception tonight and the full-blown festivities tomorrow, you may be overwhelmed already with the myriad options. (All of them free, we’ll underscore, and listed at; be sure to check for any last-minute changes.) Who knows what folks will be talking about after the fest, but we’d be remiss not to point out one of the musical events that’s absolutely historic: the first open-to-the-public appearance in Detroit by the legendary Detroit jazz group Tribe.

Since Tribe’s heyday was in the 1970s, that sounds improbable. But the truth of the matter is that Tribe was a record label (and a magazine) and a musical collective whose members played live and recorded in overlapping configurations. But none of those groups was actually called Tribe. Which is to say, that if anyone tells you they were there for all those great Tribe gigs back then, they’re engaging in a bit of confabulism there.

Of course, there’d be good reason to burnish your down-with-the-scene cred by claiming you’d seen them since the group’s renown has only built over the years. Crate-digging DJs have prized the group’s pioneering jazz-funk fusion sound. The discs have been sampled, reissued in Japan and England, hailed and anthologized by the likes of the British tastemaker and radio host Gilles Peterson.

The then-surviving members — saxophonist Wendell Harrison, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, trombonist Phil Ranelin and pianist Harold McKinney — reconvened for a WDET radio broadcast around 2000 or so. Following McKinney’s death in 2001, the Ropeadope label tapped Belgrave to re-create some of the Tribe vibe for The Detroit Experiment disc.

In 2008 another Tribal admirer, Carl Craig (who was part of the Ropeadope project), reunited Harrison, Belgrave, Ranelin with some of their contemporaries and younger players (including Craig himself) as the first actual disc by Tribe (Rebirth on his Planet E label). That set in motion New York and Paris gigs. “Street and chic and spacey, but always concerned with straight-ahead entertainment,” went the description in a laudatory New York Times review of the JVC festival appearance in the Big Apple.

Last summer, we talked with Harrison and asked when the group might finally play in public in Detroit — and the answer wasn’t particularly promising.

Which is where Art X comes. As one of two performances by Kresge eminent artist Belgrave, a Tribe reunion-debut is finally happening in Detroit with fellow Detroiter Harrison and Ranelin coming in from California.

Rounding out the group are the Belgrave protégés Geri Allen on piano, Karriem Riggins on drums and both Robert Hurst and Ralphe Armstrong on basses. And to take it over the top, they’ll add the Lisa McCall Dancers. (Sunday, 6-7:30 p.m., Charles H. Wright Museum). It’s a fitting musical finale for what promises to be an extraordinary five days of arts in Detroit.

But that’s just one of Belgrave’s Art X gigs. He’ll also perform duets with Ghanaian master percussionist Isaac Okyerema Asante (Thursday, 6:30-8 p.m., First Congregational Church).

People interested in any art in this community owe it to themselves to check out the full schedule with its panel discussion, art exhibits, installations, dance and multimedia presentations. But just to run down the extraordinary musical offerings, here’s what those Kresge art fellows are doing:


A. Spencer Barefield: “Super String Symphonica: Quantum, Quasar, Music and the Cosmos,” a series of original compositions for his Chamber Jazz Ensemble, featuring the guitarist-composer with eight strings and percussion (Thursday, 7-8:30, Detroit Science Center 8:30-9:45, First Congregational Church). “Music & the Cosmos”: Music and lecture with bassist Dave Young and percussionist Djallo Keita, with compositions inspired by the cosmos (Friday, 7-8:30, Detroit Science Center).

Joel Peterson: Original chamber works followed by a solo performance by the avant-garde harpist Zeena Parkins (a former Detroiter, and a leading voice on her instrument who rarely returns here to play) (Thursday, 7-8 p.m., MOCAD). More chamber works followed by duets of guitarist (and amplified rake virtuoso) Eugene Chadbourne and percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani (Saturday, 9-10 p.m., Scarab Club).

Invincible: Hip-hop tour de force premiers her upcoming album with Wajeed, performing with Diana Nuccera, Rick Robinson, Gayelynn McKinney, Monica Blaire and Finale, along with an installation by That’s That and video by el iqaa (Thursday, 9-11 p.m., Detroit Science Center).

Frank Pahl: Performs with musical guests amidst his sound installation, The Rube Goldberg Variations (Friday and Saturday, 6-6:45 p.m., and Sunday, 1-1:45 p.m., Scarab Club)

Monica Blaire: The singer presents ALIVE: Detroit — exploring our connection from the inside out, an audience-engagement exploration (Friday, 10:30-midnight, Charles H. Wright Museum). She continues with new music influenced by hip hop, R&B, soul and rock with her band (Saturday, 10-11 p.m., Magic Stick).

Rick Robinson: The DSO bassist presents Homeward Journey: CutTime Simfonica with his CutTime Simfonica and hip-hop dancer Haleem “Stringz” Ar-Rasheed and flameno choreographer Valeria Montes. (Saturday, 6:30-7:45 5:30 to 6:45 p.m., DIA Lecture Hall)

Timmy Lampinen: His hard-to-describe rock bands Human Eye and Timmy’s Organism perform (Saturday, midnight-2 a.m., Magic Stick).

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