Ronald Shannon Jackson, Fort Worth Jazz Pioneer, Died Yesterday
Ronald Shannon Jackson was a jazz drummer and composer from Fort Worth whose career spans 50 albums, collaborations with free jazz legends Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman and his own band, the Decoding Society.
Ronald Shannon Jackson in his last North Texas performance, July 2012. Image via Kessler X+ on YouTube
Yesterday, Jackson's cousin Tobi Hero made the announcement on Facebook, saying, "Dear America, we are so sad to announce that my cousin Ronald Shannon Jackson passed away this morning in our home town Fort Worth Texas. Ronald will live thru our MUSIC every day."
Jackson died of leukemia. He was 73 years old.
A thorough obituary is published on Jazz Times. Briefly, though: He was raised in Fort Worth and had a long and fruitful career in New York City, where he developed a unique composition style that he'd hone over 30 years with his band, The Decoding Society.
The band's last North Texas performance was in July 2012. Ken Shimamoto reviewed the concert for DC9 at Night; in it, he describes Jackson's still potent style:
As brightly as his sidemen shone, it was unarguably Jackson's night. At 72, his presence is both magisterial and elfin. His polyrhythmic thunder takes the innovations of Elvin Jones (13 years his senior) and Tony Williams (five years his junior) to a place more primal and ritualistic. He's a loud drummer, but always musical. His rhythm is highly melodic; when he solos on a tune, you can hear the changes. He seems to have absorbed the whole history of his instrument, sounding at times like a one-man drum line, a timbale player, a Taiko drummer or an entire village of African drummers. His total mastery of his tools allows him to play with unbridled abandon, tapping into something deep and primeval. He seems to conjure music from the air around him.
Some of the video from that show is available online, including these two songs: