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Ronald Shannon Jackson, RIP

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The great free jazz drummer has passed. Here’s a clip of him in possibly my favorite jazz band of all-time, Last Exit, with Peter Brotzmann, Bill Laswell, and Sonny Sharrock. This clip really features Jackson’s work.

I know after watching that, everyone is ready for a nice smooth mellow evening, just like after listening to a little Kenny G. I love Last Exit so much because for all the craziness, Jackson still grounds it in a big blues-rock beat that drives the music like a hammer.

Check this out too:

Mr. Jackson was born in Fort Worth on Jan. 12, 1940. His mother, Ella Mae, played piano and organ at a Methodist church and his father, William, was the proprietor of Fort Worth’s only black-owned record store and jukebox supplier. The saxophonists King Curtis and David (Fathead) Newman were relatives; among the musicians who preceded him at I. M. Terrell High School were Mr. Coleman and the saxophonists Dewey Redman and Julius Hemphill. Mr. Jackson played his first public engagement, with the saxophonist James Clay, at age 15, then worked with Ray Charles’s band in Dallas. In 1966 he went to New York, where he enrolled at New York University. That year he made his first recording, with the Charles Tyler Ensemble, and joined Ayler’s band. His work with Ayler is documented on two roughly recorded but urgently played volumes of “Live at Slug’s Saloon.”

So the same Fort Worth high school produced Ornette Coleman, Julius Hemphill, Dewey Redman, and Shannon Jackson. Huh. Whatever was in the water out there was pretty potent.

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