Jackson, Ronald Shannon

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Jackson, Ronald Shannon

Jackson, Ronald Shannon, American drummer; b. Ft. Worth, Tex., Jan.12, 1940. He is a polyrhythmatist of power and imagination who has developed Omette Coleman’s harmolodic music in his own highly personal direction with his group the Decoding Society. Jackson came up in Tex. playing with such esteemed locals as James Clay. Eventually moving to N.Y, he became part of the free-jazz scene, recording with Albert Ayler and Charles Tyler. Quite technically adept, he was also working with more mainstream musicians, including Betty Carter and Charles Mingus. In the 1970s he worked extensively in the bands of Coleman and Cecil Taylor. He worked throughout the 1980s as a leader, racking up an impressive discography, while also playing on the first two albums by ex- Coleman bandmate James Blood Ulmer’s group Music Revelation Ensemble, the only release by the collective trio Power Tools, and a number of Bill Laswell projects.

Since returning to Tex. in the 1990s, he has become less prolific, though his Decoding Society still convenes in the studio about once a year and has made some fine albums for the Japanese DIW label.

Compositionally, he combines the collective voicing/improvisation principles of harmolodics with his complex polyrhythms, a knowledge of African music gained in travel there, and a feeling for the blues inherent in his Tex. upbringing. He prefers higher-pitched instruments, saying that’s where he naturally hears musical lines, which explains his flute playing, his distinctive use of guitars, and his preference for alto and soprano saxophonists. His music is full of interlocking lines and rhythms.


Eye on You (1980); Nasty (1981); Street Priest (1981); Mandarne (1982); Barbeque Dog (1983); Pulse (1984); Decode Yourself (1985); Live at the Caravan of Dreams (1986); When Colors Play (1987); Texas (1988); Taboo (1990); Red Warrior (1990); Raven Roc (1992); What Spirit Say (1995).

—Steve Holtje

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