Ronald Shannon Jackson
A drummer of awe-inspiring power, Jackson has worked with a mighty assortment of jazz innovators over the years. He played on vintage LPs by Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman's Prime Time and James Blood Ulmer. He also co-led the '80s noise-jazz supergroup Last Exit. Since the early '80s he's helmed his own groundbreaking outfit, the Decoding Society, which takes off from the Free/Funk/Fusion platform of Prime Time, but adds a clearer sense of structure (the interplay can still get pretty wild) and a greater stylistic reach. Heavy Metal guitar, foot-stomping Texan rhythm, bluesy saxophone and violin, and even hints of country have all made their way into Jackson's harmolodic melting pot. However, while Jackson's composing has been consistently strong, his records haven't: dated guitar synths, slick '80s production and erratic live mixes sometimes get in the way. When things do hit the mark, though -- as on Earned Dreams, Live in Warsaw (with saxophonist James Carter), and most of the pre-1984 records -- Jackson and company have been pretty much unstoppable.