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SoundGround >> Ronald Shannon Jackson


2/24/12 11:09 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 10/25/13 1:13 AM
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This guy. A lot of records, and (like anyone whose done a lot of records) a lot of inconsistency. Some of the best early stuff was recorded and mixed poorly. But he had a bit of purple patch where it all came together in the 80s. Particularly a record called Man Dance and one called Barbeque Dog. Two bassists on most of it (the guy playing on frets is Melvin Gibbs), and a very young Vernon Reid playing guitar and banjo.

Jackson's the drummer. He played in Ornette Coleman's Prime Time. Out of which grew a sub-genre that critics called "Harmolodics". A term Ornette made up, and called a "theory" of music. Near as I can tell it wasn't that, whatever it was, but just the "latest" version of free jazz. Trying to make harmony, and rhythm ("movement"), and melody all equal; and uber-democratic "everybody soloing at the same time". Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but in the hands of Jackson and a streak of Blood Ulmer records (another Ornette alum), this stuff was mindblowing to my young mind. Still is.

Title track (no video) from RSJ's "Man Dance":

2/24/12 11:14 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 02/24/12 11:22 AM
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I find several things on youtube, but after brief check, most in crappy sound; there's a cool trio with RSJ and Gibbs and Vernon Reid, but.... that's later, and stripped down just wasn't as ecstatic with as this thing with all the horns and both basses.

There is some Power Tools, a trio with RSJ and Frisell and Gibbs, that's excellent, too. Mostly this is being posted though to emphasize the post-Ornette stuff that I liked a whole bunch (by request, again!). Now off to work, I'll look for more samples that hold up later.
2/24/12 11:13 PM
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hugomma
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Edited: 02/24/12 11:19 PM
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That was wild.  Still very melodic, but wild none the less.  Love the tempo/mood shift at :44.  And the horn interplay starting around 2:33.  I hear what you mean by the democratic everyone-solo-all-at-once thing.

It's damn shame there weren't ProTools or more accessable ways for musicians like this to record back in the day.  It seems like a lot of these guys put out a bunch of poorly recorded records.  That, combined with challenging music, makes it tough to digest sometimes.

If you get chance, please post some of your favorite Ornette Coleman.  The only thing I've ever really listened to is "Shapes of Jazz to Come".  I never heard any of the fusion stuff he did.
 
2/25/12 12:22 AM
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Ali
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Here's another (again no video), from the next record "Barbeque Dog" -- tune is called "Yugo Boy". Another with some super cool Vernon Reid featured, but again the whole ensemble just takes it:

2/26/12 1:12 PM
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Ali
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a couple decades later, a reunion of just the trio: RSJ, Vernon Reid, and Melvin Gibbs:

2/26/12 1:17 PM
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Ali
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Edited: 02/26/12 2:14 PM
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After Reid left (I suppose the first time)... the Decoding Society soldiered on... again the mix is low, so turn it up -- but here's a case of that whole harmolodic "everyone soloing and accompanying" idea. At least you really get it with the drums, which is what RSJ played after all:

2/26/12 1:21 PM
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Ali
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Edited: 02/27/12 10:34 AM
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Not sure if I posted this on the (hijacked) Nels Cline thread when I was pushing Frisell. Maybe. Maybe it was another tune from this trio. Power Tools they called themselves, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Bill Frisell, Melvin Gibbs:



Sound isn't too bad, some digital crackle that's annoying but the instruments are clear -- but is WAY too quiet, again.
2/26/12 10:18 PM
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hugomma
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Just listened to "Yugo Boy". That made me LOL for some reason. It sounded like the soundtrack to a warped video game in the 80's, like "Mario does DMT".

The melody from 1:09-1:22 reminded me of something Zappa would've done. And my god Vernon Reid's lick that starts at 1:35 (& beyond, but man that opening lick was a killer).

Okay, now going to the Cline thread to see what you left there...
2/27/12 10:21 AM
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DasBeaver
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hugomma - Just listened to "Yugo Boy". That made me LOL for some reason. It sounded like the soundtrack to a warped video game in the 80's, like "Mario does DMT".


That's a great description, haha. I really liked Encryption Bimhuis and the Powerhouse with Frissell numbers. What a powerhouse, incredible drummer.
2/27/12 10:38 AM
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Ali
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Not a gamer so I don't know what you guys are talking about. I love that freaking tune, though.

Speaking of powerhouse drumming, check out the opening of that "When Colors Play" tune. Dude is *KILLING*. When I saw Power Tools back in the late 80s, I was overwhelmed by RSJ. I think I was more there for Frisell (though not necessarily... it was a supergroup, after all). RSJ was such a force, a storm.
2/27/12 11:30 AM
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hugomma
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Ali - Not a gamer so I don't know what you guys are talking about. I love that freaking tune, though.

Speaking of powerhouse drumming, check out the opening of that "When Colors Play" tune. Dude is *KILLING*. When I saw Power Tools back in the late 80s, I was overwhelmed by RSJ. I think I was more there for Frisell (though not necessarily... it was a supergroup, after all). RSJ was such a force, a storm.
LOL, I'm not a gamer either.  In fact, it's not a real game - I made it up.  "Yugo Boy" to me sounds like Mario on DMT.  At least, that's how I'd describe to someone who never heard the tune.

Look foward to checking out more later.  TTYL.
 
10/31/12 11:40 PM
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hugomma
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Just got back from Trick or Treating with my little boy.  Happy Halloween everyone.  Hope those of you in the East are warm & safe.

I thought I'd TTT this thread with some recent RSJ.  This is the latest incarnation of his band, the Decoding Society, with a violin & trumpet.  This piece, titled "People We Love", is hauntingly beautiful.  These free jazz guys know how to get crazy & cut loose, but players like RJS & Sonny Sharrock can take your breath away with the beauty of a melody.  There's more to RJS than just polyrhythmic drumming & percussive virtuosity.  He is a fully realized composer, musician, & artist. 

11/1/12 12:40 AM
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Ali
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VTFU for that addition. There are a bunch (err... at least a couple) of tunes from that Dallas show. I love this new incarnation of the Decoding Society.

Jackson's been putting up lots of videos it seems, over the past little while. "cymbata" is his youtube handle.
11/1/12 1:08 AM
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hugomma
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Thanks Ali - for the VTFU, & turning me on to RSJ in the 1st place.

Here's another beauty from the same Dallas show: "Pedal".  The frist 3:45 are more like modern chamber music than electric free jazz.  The soundtrack to heartbreak, if you will.  But not the asshole kind of heartbreak Zappa wrote about - the real kind.

And then the drums kick in at 3:46...

11/1/12 1:23 AM
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Ali
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You beat me to it.... that would have been the next video I posted. Discovered while listening to the one you pointed out first. RSJ is getting super active again, it seems, after some years of laying relatively low.
11/1/12 1:28 AM
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hugomma
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Edited: 11/01/12 1:44 AM
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I posted part 2 first, but my OCD is forcing me to fix this: Wrong Jones, Part 1.

Another recent Decoding Society lineup, but with Drew Phelps on the double bass, Gregg Prickett on guitar.  Maybe it's becasue of killer bass, but it reminds me of early Ornette/Don Cherry, but with a guitar. 

 

11/1/12 1:32 AM
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hugomma
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Ali - You beat me to it.... that would have been the next video I posted. Discovered while listening to the one you pointed out first. RSJ is getting super active again, it seems, after some years of laying relatively low.

I really should be practicing, but I can't get over this.  Mindblowing on so many levels.  It isn't enough that RSJ is doing shit on the drums that would make Elvin Jones or Tony Williams proud, it's the fact that he's writing this music & leading these incredible bands.

11/1/12 1:35 AM
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hugomma
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Edited: 11/01/12 1:45 AM
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Wrong Jones, Pt 2. 

LOL at bassist Drew Phelps' nerd trace.

11/1/12 1:54 AM
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hugomma
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First there was Vernon Reid, then Frisell...I'm sure there are other guitarists I don't know about...And now, Gregg Prickett. 

"He Walked Into a River" - Prickett wrote this as a tribute to Alber Ayler.  Yet another flavor of RSJ & the Decoding Sociey.

11/1/12 2:00 AM
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Ali
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oh man... there are probably a bunch of guys. Jef Lee Johnson was "the new Vernon" for Shannon for a while. That's the main one that comes to mind. Sick player. Dave Fiuczynski played for the Decoding Society, too. And I think he's as good as any of 'em.

I'm not sure, but I think Masujaa played for him, too. (I have no idea what Masujaa's birth name is, but he's another really heavy player. I'll see if I can find the tune that served as an introduction for me... but that's another chapter. Not RSJ).

Prickett is a new one to me. But I'll bet he gets LOTS more people auditioning for the band now than he did when he found Vernon... he's not just "dad" now, he's "gramps" to a whole movement. Him and Blood Ulmer. Ornette is the real patriarch, as great-grampa in this picture, of course. Tacuma is less of a bandleader, but still an inspirational figure. Maybe Bern Nix (another guitarist). I can't think who else, but if I played other instruments, I bet I could.

Thanks for finding that -- that Prickett piece is great. I'm a big admirer of a certian few records Ayler did, too. (And Prickett, whom I just heard of today thanks to you, does a better tribute than the offical record Henry Kaiser did, with Keneally and a bunch of other ... um... "superstars")
11/1/12 9:18 AM
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Ali
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Here's one of the most beautiful (i.e., not me being weird in my definition, either). One thing I love about the earlier RSJ records is the occasional banjo played by Vernon Reid. Always loved his approach to banjo. But also the bass on this (two bassists in the band, so I can't sort who is who all the time)... This is called "Mystery at Dawn":

11/1/12 11:31 AM
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hugomma
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I look forward to this and Henry Threadgill later today. Thanks Ali.
11/6/12 12:15 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 03/24/13 11:56 PM
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Here's a live clip of earlier Decoding Society. You get to see the very young virtuoso Vernon Reid.... for all you Living Colour fans... but he doesn't get solo space. The last solo is pretty great, passionate -- Henry Scott on trumpet. But the drums create the whole new and fresh and fertile earth for all these younger guys to roam. I wish the sound mix was a little better (because the drum tone in particular is so seductive when you can hear it properly)... but it's in no way bad. And no else is sounding like this.

"Zane's Fangs" live at the Montreux Jazz Festival (mislabeled "Zang Fangs"):

11/6/12 12:20 AM
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Ali
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And here's a rather twisted avant-"rockish" take on the blues; a trio of Ornette Coleman band alumni. James Blood Ulmer on guitar and voice; Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass (and looking super groovy/professorial!); and Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums, driving it all forward and holding it down. I think this was before Blood started tuning all of the guitar strings to an open "A"!

"Night Blues"

11/6/12 12:28 AM
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Ali
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By the 1990s, the decoding society had Jef Lee Johnson on guitar, Dom Richards on bass, Rob Redy on soprano sax, and a ringer... James Carter on tenor sax. This tune Shannon wrote trying to recreate the feeling of being in Seville for a Flamenco festival. His comments on youtube say:

"as luck, faith, or karma would have it I was in Seville on the night of the annual Gypsy Flamenco Festival of singing dancing and joy,guitars hand clapping foot? stomping and tongue wailing a unique experience that I tried to put to music.... oh the Andalusian...in rhythm Shannon"

So here's "Night in Seville" from 1994:


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