The sad news of drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson’s passing reached the jazz world a few days ago.
When I seriously started to listen to jazz in the early eighties, I was a big fan of all the Ornette Coleman influenced Free Funk bands that were around then: Of course Ornette’s own Prime Time Band was number one, and I saw them several times. Then there were James Blood Ulmer’s different bands – and of course Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society with it’s blend of disparate influences held together by the wonderful multifaceted drumming of Jackson. His name was known quite widely then as the Punk/New Wave scene in its ongoing search for something new turned to Harmolodic Free Funk for a while.
Also quite widely known was Last Exit, the colloborative band consisting of Furor Teutonicus Peter Brötzmann on different reeds, guitarist Sonny Sharrock, bassist Bill Laswell and Jackson that literally made a lot of noise in the mid eighties. I saw Last Exit five or six times and I can tell you that it was a cathartic experience every time.
Unfortunately I never saw Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society live. So I was happy to find nearly half an hour of the band playing at the Jazz Festival Montreux on July 21, 1983 on one of the VHS cassettes in the archive of my friend, the late jazz researcher Otto Flückiger:
You see and hear Zane Massey (as, ts), Henry Scott (tp), Vernon Reid (g), Bruce Johnson and Melvin Gibbs (eb) and of course Ronald Shannon Jackson (dr).