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Emanative & Phil Ranelin: Vibes From The Tribe

Chris May By

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The Tribe referred to here was a musicians' cooperative in Detroit, Michigan, active from 1972-1977. It was co-founded by trombonist Phil Ranelin and saxophonist Wendell Harrison and was equal parts band, record label and community project. Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave was among the members. The organization had close affinities with Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and New York's Strata-East record label.

The original version of "Vibes From The Tribe"—a classic of first-generation funk-infused spiritual jazz—was made by a septet comprising Ranelin, Harrison, Belgrave, two electric basses, Fender Rhodes and drums. It was the title track (iterated three times with variations) of an LP released under Ranelin's name on the Tribe label in 1976.

This seven-inch 2019 version is a collaboration between Ranelin and the London-based spiritual-jazz ensemble Emanative, whose Earth (Jazzman) was among this writer's top ten albums of 2018. The new version catches the funked up electro-acoustic ball and scores again. Ranelin has also added a brief lyric to the tune. His words call out the lies which the US and British electorates are being fed, on one side of the pond, by a narcissist ambitious to "lead" the US for four more years and, on the other, by an unprincipled egomaniac determined to "lead" Britain into a similarly mean-minded cul-de-sac.

Releasing a new version of "Vibes From The Tribe" is an ambitious exercise akin to remaking, say, one of Pharoah Sanders or Alice Coltrane's signature tracks. Something not to be undertaken lightly. The Emanative / Ranelin release succeeds, however, not just because of Ranelin's elder-statesman gravitas, but also because of Emanative's grasp of the spiritual-jazz idiom. The disc is a small but perfectly formed masterpiece, rebel music which has not forgotten how to have a good time.

All proceeds from the single are being donated to the Steve Reid Foundation, a charity helmed by Emanative's leader, drummer Nick Woodmansey. The Foundation aims to help people working in music who are in crisis and also seeks to support emerging new talent.

Talking of remaking Sanders tracks brings us to Karma (Impulse, 1969). British saxophonist Soweto Kinch and his band revisited the disc at London's Jazz Cafe in June 2019. And Emanative percussionist Sarathy Korwar included a reading of the album's break-out track, "The Creator Has A Master Plan," on his 2018 blinder, My East Is Your West (Gearbox). Not every road in jazz leads back to Sanders, but every road that does is worth exploring.

Track Listing: A Side: Vibes From The Tribe. B Side: Version Vibes.

Personnel: Phil Ranelin: trombone; Simon Finch; trumpet; Ben Hadwen: tenor saxophone; Tamar Osborn: baritone saxophone: Jessica Lauren: Wurlitzer organ, ARP 2600; Suman Joshi: bass; Vince Vella: percussion; Phillip Harper: congas; Sarathy Korwar: bowed cymbals; Nick Woodmansey: drums.

Title: Vibes From The Tribe | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Steve Reid Foundation

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