Wendell Harrison & Tribe

Friday, April 12 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm$35.00
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Showtimes are at 7:30p & 9:30p for this performance.Doors open at 5pm for dinner. Seating begins at 6pm for “Dinner & a Show”. The second show starts seating at 9pm.

Jazz saxophonist and clarinetist Wendell Harrison has long been known for taking his music into his own hands.  Co-founder of the legendary Tribe record label and collective in the 1970’s, Harrison went on to establish Rebirth Inc., a non profit jazz performance and education organization in the 80’s.  Recently, Wendell has collaborated with pianist and vocalist Amp Fiddler in performing concerts and special recording projects.  Also, numerous well-known jazz artists, including pianist Geri Allen, saxophonist James Carter, saxophonist Eddie Harris, vocalist Leon Thomas and trumpeter Woody Shaw, just to name a few, have performed with Wendell and participated in Rebirth’s programs.  He also created the WenHa, record label and publishing company which released many of his recordings, as well as that of his wife, pianist Pamela Wise.  Through his solo work and his Mama’s Licking Stick Clarinet Ensemble, Harrison has gained more widespread respect for the clarinet, this often neglected, yet versatile instrument.

Harrison was born on October 1, 1942 in Detroit and attended Northwestern High School.  His classmates included trumpeter Lonnie Hillyer, saxophonist Charles McPherson and percussionist Roy Brooks, all of whom sparked his interest in jazz music.  Like his classmates, Harrison began formal jazz studies with pianist Barry Harris.  He also attended the Detroit Conservatory of Music which is now known as the College for Creative Studies.

While in Detroit he performed with Motown stars Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and the legendary Sammy Ward.  Shortly after in 1960 the young Harrison headed for New York.  He began performing for some of the world’s premier jazz artists: guitarist Grant Green, vocalist Eddie Jefferson and the great Sun Ra.  He teamed up with trumpet players Marcus Belgrave , Jimmy Owens and baritone/tuba/euphonium player Howard Johnson to perform and tour with saxophonist Hank Crawford.  Wendell can be heard on Hank’s earlier recordings: Double Cross, Dig These Blues, Mr. Blues, on Atlantic Records.  Wendell learned how to compose, write and arrange for multi ensemble during this time in his life.

In 1970, the fast paced New York and the road began taking its’ toll on Wendell.  He moved to California for a short period.  While resting and practicing at the Syanon Center, he met vocalist Esther Phillips and saxophonist Art Pepper.  Under the direction of Greg Dykes they recorded an album (reissued  on CD ) entitled The Prince Of Peace which received world wide recognition.  This experience also enhanced his writing and arranging skills.  Harrison headed back to Detroit in 1971.  He began teaching music at a multi arts complex for youth, Metro Arts founded by Dr. Amelita Mandingo.  While teaching at Metro Arts, Wendell met  pianist and composer Harold McKinney and rejoined his friend Marcus Belgrave.  Wendell also met trombonist Phil Ranelin who had moved to Detroit from Indianapolis.  Together they formed the Tribe record label and collective.  Tribe used this vehicle to convey a growing black political consciousness.  The group also included drummer and composer Doug Hammond, pianist Ken Cox and trumpeter Charles Moore.  They performed together live and on each others recordings and releasing them on the Tribe record label.  Tribe also published a magazine, a quarterly  monthly publication dedicated to musical and  political revolutionaries and political issues.  The magazine was published by Harrison’s company,  The Harrison Association.  Tribe had pretty much disbanded in 1975, but Phil Ranelin and Wendell were instrumental and getting all of the Tribe recordings reissued to various international labels.   Techno music guru Carl Craig discovered in his global travels that Tribe still was gaining popularity on the underground techno music scene internationally which was unheard of considering they haven’t performed together as Tribe in over 30 years.  In 2007 Carl reproduced the Tribe group with Marcus, Wendell, Doug and Phil.  They released a single on the market entitled It’s A New Day on the C2 Planet E record label. Recently, there has  been several reissues on vinyl  from various record labels in Japan  UK , Germany and in the USA.  In 2023 Adrian Young and Ali Shaheed Muhammad produced the release Phil Ranelin and Wendell Harrison 16 on the record label JAZZ IS DEAD.   Tribe continues to make a strong musical presence on the international scene.

Meanwhile, Wendell and Harold McKinney founded Rebirth Inc. in 1978, another successful non profit organization whose mission is to educate the youth and the greater community about jazz through workshops and concert presentations throughout the Midwest and beyond.  The organization is based in Detroit and funded by several foundations and corporations.  In teaching and presenting many of Rebirth’s programs Wendell  found that students needed a method to help them learn jazz improvisation to perform like the masters.  So he authored the Be Boppers Method Books Volumes I & II which is an invaluable aid to young musicians wanting to build their improvisational skills.  The book also includes a play along audio file /CD and is distributed internationally by Jamey Aebersold.

Harrison’s campaign for the often neglected clarinet instrument has added a new spin on his list of accomplishments.  The unique Mama’s Licking Stick Clarinet Ensemble features each member of the clarinet family including Eflat soprano, Bflat, alto, bass and contra bass clarinets.  Chamber Music America, a prestigious granting organization based in New York has awarded Harrison several grants in support of his unique clarinet ensemble.  Some of the programs have included New  Works and Creation, Jazz Residency programs an the French American  Cultural Exchange projects.  There are several recordings available on Mama’s Licking Stick including Rush and Hustle, Live In  Concert (both which feature James Carter on bass clarinet) and Forever Duke release on the WenHa Record label.

Wendell continues to thrive as a musician, educator and entrepreneur creating new and innovative projects such as:  composing new music for various ensembles, collaborating with  and recording with young musicians.  Detroit continues to produce the best talent in the world and that is found to be true with the great jazz master Wendell Harrison.




Friday, April 12
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
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