Ronald Shannon Jackson / Ronald Shannon Jackson & the Decoding Society

Decode Yourself

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The range of styles found on drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decode Yourself is amazing, but what really impresses is the way Jackson unifies the disparate strains with his unique arrangements and varied rhythmic support. The combination of focus and expansiveness in this Texan's approach is not surprising, considering his tenures with both hard boppers, like James Clay, and explorative jazz figures, such as Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and James Blood Ulmer. From Coleman's trailblazing Prime Time group in particular, he developed a taste for electric ensembles, abstract R&B, and musical variety. From that multifaceted perspective, Jackson not only pays homage to jazz with the inclusion of a manic cover of Dizzy Gillespie's "Bebop" and the futuristic big-band swing number "Decoding," but he also works in some funk ("Undressing"), blues ("Love Words for a Queen"), Western swing ("Software Shuffle"), Afro-Caribbean rhythms ("Thieves Market"), and thrash ("Tricky Vic"). Jackson reconfigures and updates these genre elements with synthesizers and electric drums, a load of harmolodic improvisation, and a pleasingly incongruous mixture of jittery, yet firm rhythms and murky, elongated horn charts. The cavalcade of music is expertly handled by Jackson's band, the Decoding Society, which includes heavyweights like saxophonist Eric Person, trombonist Robin Eubanks, guitarist Vernon Reid, and bassist Melvin Gibbs. Decode Yourself is an excellent title for newcomers and fans alike.

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