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Vernon Reid Remembers Ronald Shannon Jackson

1.12.40 – 10.19.13

Ronald Shannon Jackson
Ronald Shannon Jackson

I had a kind of fusion band in the late ’70s, and Melvin Gibbs was the bass player. We used to rehearse a lot but we had no gigs. And Melvin started playing with groups in Manhattan, which was a big deal for Brooklynites. One day he said, “You have to hear this drummer I’ve been playing with. His name is Ronald Shannon Jackson.” I went to a gig, and it was a magical experience; I’d never heard music like that. I later joined his Decoding Society.

Shannon was unique because he played with Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor, so he’s a common figure between three pillars of the jazz avant-garde. With harmolodics Ornette was a figure something like Miles Davis, in that James Blood Ulmer went on to do his thing with the concept and Ronald Shannon Jackson had his own take on it. Ornette and Shannon-they’re from Texas, and that’s a big deal. There’s something that unites Shannon’s music to Lightnin’ Hopkins; there’s a certain something that is just boiled in.

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