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Drummer & Composer Ronald Shannon Jackson Dies at 73

Leader of the Decoding Society also played with Ornette Coleman and many others

Ronald Shannon Jackson
Ronald Shannon Jackson
Ronald Shannon Jackson in 1989

Ronald Shannon Jackson, a drummer and composer who worked largely within the realms of free jazz, funk and fusion, died Oct. 19, in Ft. Worth, Tex. Jackson’s passing was confirmed by his cousin, Tobi Hero, on Jackson’s Facebook page. Jackson was suffering from leukemia and had been living in a hospice. He was 73.

Jackson recorded more than 20 albums as a leader and served as a sideman with such pioneers of jazz’s avant-garde as Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. (The drummer was in fact the only musician to work with all three.) Jackson’s band the Decoding Society, formed in 1979, incorporated contemporary elements such as rock, funk and dance and included, at various times, such now well-known players as Billy Bang, Byard Lancaster, Zane Massey, David Fiuczynski, Jef Lee Johnson, Melvin Gibbs, Robin Eubanks and Vernon Reid.

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