by W. Kim Heron
The Detroit edition of the traveling Red Bull Academy closed down after six days Saturday night, after workshops featuring Detroit artists from Motown arranger Paul Riser to MC5 axman Wayne Kramer, from Mike Banks and Nick Speed to Jim Diamond.
For the closer it was the group Tribe, which fittingly captured much of the range of the previous days. Here were guys whose roots include the Motown sessions and touring outfits (not to mention work with Ray Charles, Hank Crawford, etc.), who pioneered DIY production in the ‘70s (before the idea was common enough to demand an acronym), whose music had elements of the populist and the abstract, and whose music, diced and spliced and spun for the dancefloor, has had a second life with club DJs and hip-hop and techno producers.
In its heyday, ironically, Tribe was a collective of leaders with overlapping groups, which is to say that back then, one didn’t typically go to hear “Tribe” perform. So Saturday’s performance could be called, the second-ever public performance by Tribe in Detroit, following their gig at Art X earlier this year. The three suriviving Tribe principals were there for the united horn line – Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison and Phil Ranelin – plus the daughter of the now-deceased pianist Harold McKinney, Gayelynn Mckinney on drums. Pathe Jassi and Marion Hayden doubled up on basses (a “two bass hit,” someone said referencing the jazz classic); Bill Meyer and Ian Finkelstein doubled up on keyboards; Rick Matle raved-up guitar parts for a few numbers and Joan Belgrave added a few vocals.
The night closed out with Belgrave’s “Space Odyssey,” onto which the chant “Space is the place” was afixed at the end. That Detroit, too, is the place, went without singing.