Ronald Shannon Jackson

Beast in the Spider Bush: Live at the Caravan of Dreams

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From an ongoing series of reissues of live recordings by Ronald Shannon Jackson & the Decoding Society comes this curiosity piece. This is a meeting of the second generation Decoding Society (Vernon Reid, Zane Massey, and Melvin Gibbs had all departed), with African singers and drummers Twins Seven Seven. Therefore, it's also the first and only Decoding Society recording with vocals. It hardly matters. While the band is still pretty tight -- with Reggie Washington on bass, Eric Person on saxophones, Cary DeNigris on guitar, and Akbar Ali on violin -- and the performance is good, it loses its some of its fire as a result of the collaboration, which was not well-rehearsed. This is some scheme on the part of Jackson to move the Decoding Society's sound into something more exotic. The result is mixed. Part of this can be blamed on the totally dodgy recording quality. This was an officially released album on the Caravan of Dreams label, and it sounds like a bootleg. The other part is Jackson's deliberate practice of restraint because of adding the other group to his. There is little adventure here, but there are heavy grooves. The trademark harmolodic melody lines are present, but in the way of real group interplay and improvisation, there is little heat. Twins Seven Seven is a fantastic singing and drumming group; it would be a treat to hear them in some setting other than this one. As for the Decoding Society, it's clear that this was the beginning of the end creatively; the question is -- with a drummer of Jackson's abilities and his already clearly demonstrated ability to assemble, compose for, and lead great bands -- why?

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