Ronald Shannon Jackson was one of the great, eternally fearless, drumming band leaders of the new breed of jazz/rock fusionists to surface in the 80s… though, his rich resume dates back to the 60s playing in bands alongside Charles Mingus, Stanley Turrentine and Albert Ayler, among others. It was Jackson’s stint with Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time in the mid-to-late 70s, however, that helped shape his instincts for the fiery, fusionist attitude that permeated his longtime band, The Decoding Society. Jackson passed away last week, and while his obit was only noticed by a criminally small cadre of faithful music lovers, his passion and energy will be greatly missed. Here’s a handful of off-the-shelf discs that I’ve been revisiting this week that some of you might also enjoy. If nothing else, click a few of the streaming players to get a taste. Check Readers’ Links for Don From Oregon’s Oct. 20th contributions of some of Jackson’s work with Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor and don’t forget our Power Tools post (HERE) featuring Jackson, Melvin Gibbs & Bill Frisell. Track listings for the rips below are in comments.
Considered by many to be a definitive Decoding Society release, with electrically charged arrangements and drive. One of Shannon Jackson’s better sounding releases, too, and this is an ancient 80s CD. Inexplicable interplay and invention with players bouncing all over the room. Includes Vernon Reid and Melvin Gibbs (2/3 of Living Color) along with Henry Scott, Zane Massey and Bruce Johnson on flurious (that’s fluid and furious) bass. Amazon’s got it (HERE). Hear “Man Dance” below.
Wildly chaotic live set featuring Vernon Reid, Melvin Gibbs, Cary Denigris, Reggie Washington, Henry Scott and Eric Person. The band on this 1986 date is kinetic, zooming in all directions with colliding, melodic abandon. At times free swinging (“Erri Moments”), languid and atmospheric (“Sacred Language”) and/or freeform noise (“The Janitor”), Live At Greenwich House covers a lot of ground with a playfully upbeat air of creativity that’s often M.I.A. in this kind of “experimental jazz.” Released by Knitting Factory’s short-lived in-house label, Knit Classics, 13 years after the fact. As of today there are only two copies at Amazon (HERE), ranging in price from $14 to $226. Hear “Flatbush Roti” below.
Between Jackson’s driving propulsion and the band’s melodic drive-bys and flittering riffage, Texas comes across as relatively concise within the RSJ & TDS catalog, with most tracks clocking in around the 5 minute mark – making for a lean presentation that works well here. More of the band’s eclectic mix of jazz rock fusion, atmospheric freeform and balls out improv. Features Hugh Riley, Cary Denigris, Zane Massey, Eric Person & John Moody. Amazon has it (HERE). Hear “Evoking” below.
Rhythmic excursions that emit a distant, eerie, otherworldly vibe. Shannon Jackson’s combustible energy is the anchor, but the slightly Africanized horn charts color the proceedings. Co-producer (with Jackson) Bill Laswell’s technical guidance seems to take a back seat, but that’s OK. Many of the same players as above, along with Robin Eubanks, David Gordon, Akbar Ali and added horn players. This is a 1990 import rip on Virgin. Amazon has it (HERE). Hear “Challenge to Manhood.”
A personal fave and one of Shannon Jackson’s better known albums boasts a three-guitar, dual-bass attack, featuring Stevie Salas, Jef Lee Johnson (more on Jef Lee HERE), Jack DeSalvo, Ramon Pooser and Conrad Mathieu. The unusual line-up (by Jackson’s standards), along with Salas’ imput, makes for a heavier, bluesier sound that sets Red Warrior apart from much of Jackson’s Decoding Society bigger band releases. Co-produced by Bill Laswell and RSJ. Originally released via Laswell’s Axiom imprint. Find it at Amazon (HERE). Hear “Red Warrior” below.