Remembering Ronald Shannon Jackson

Dec 7, 2013

Last Call remembers legendary avant-garde drummer and composer Ronald Shannon Jackson. He died in October at the age of 73.

One of the finest drummers to emerge in the last 50 years, Jackson was a native of Fort Worth, Texas. Jackson played drums in his high school marching band and sang a soloist in the school choir. While at Lincoln University, Jackson gained invaluable experience working with Lester Bowie, Oliver Nelson and John Hicks.

Moving to New York in the early 1960s, Ronald Shannon Jackson found work with the legendary jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler. A live date from May, 1966 has Jackson almost exploding on the drums behind Ayler's pentacostal saxophone utterances. Work followed with pianist Cecil Taylor in addition to Charles Mingus, Betty Carter, McCoy Tyner, Stanley Turrentine, and others.

Jackson was a member of the Ornette Coleman band in the 1970s along with noted guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer. The Ornette Coleman "Prime Time" band presented Coleman's revolutionary jazz concepts in an electric, highly explosive framework . Following his association with Coleman,  Jackson launched his groundbreaking group the Decoding Society. Through essential albums such as “Eye on You,” “Mandance,” “Street Priest,” “Barbeque Dog,” and “When Colors Play" and the solo album "Puttin’ on Dog" the legendary drummer and his bandmates created a focused combination of electric and acoustic jazz instrumentation. The result was ensemble jazz at its most dynamic fueled by Jackson's relentless, volcanic percussion.    

For more information on Roland Shannon Jackson you may visit his website at

Photo credit: Michael Hoefner