Hometown is the first ever compilation to focus on the latter-day recordings of acclaimed Detroit jazz collective Tribe. Released on single CD or double LP, the 10-track set takes rare and unreleased recordings from founder Wendell Harrison’s own studio and the SereNgeti Gallery & Cultural Center from 1990 through to 2014.
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Although the city of Detroit is perhaps most commonly associated with techno, there was and is a notable jazz scene held together by Tribe, a collective that became a cornerstone of the community through their creation of a record label, radio station, and various youth workshops. 'Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990-2014' is a compilation of remasters of original sessions performed by a revolving cast of notable players from the scene such as Pamela Wise and Harold McKinney. Immediately I'm struck by the words associated with this record. The fact the collective is called 'Tribe', and the name of the compilation is rooted in a sense of time ('1990-2014') and place ('Hometown: Detroit'), identifies how the project is inward-looking in the best way possible. It's clear that Tribe is commited to the betterment of Detroit as a community.
Onto the muzak! These recordings are full of smooth, slinky numbers that are a little louche and always seems to be teetering on the edge of breaking into something anarchic. For instance, the fairly pedestrian instrumentation on 'Freddie's Groove' is accompanied by frenetic, synopated drum patterns. On 'Marcus Garvey' the swaying 3/4 rhythm is occasionally unsettled by off-tempo snare rattles. I also love 'Ode To Black Mother' which starts as an energetic acapella piece before shifting gear into a monster drum and bass groove accompanied by cyclic piano and horn arrangements.
The most spine-tingling moment on the album comes on the last song 'The Slave Ship Enterprise' which pairs bitterly sardonic lyrics about the "land of the free" with piano accompaniment that oscaillates between noisy dissonance and ironic wistfulness. Some of the vocal refrains reminded me of Scott Walker at his most breathy and emotive. It's an uncomfortable song to listen to but completely enthralling and one of the best things I've heard all year.
These sessions are dynamic and, at times, raucous demonstrations of a genuinely community-based collective.
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- Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990-2014 by Tribe
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