An appreciative crowd of around 90-100 saw Ronald Shannon Jackson fight through an atrocious sound mix to bring the noise Saturday night, July 7 in Dallas. Appearing at the historic Kessler Theatre, Jackson unveiled a new version of his Decoding Society, with only Melvin Gibbs a holdover from previous incarnations.
The night opened with some intense verses from national poetry slam champion Janean Livingston, speaking truth to power to those who could embrace the storms she unleashed. To those suckas who couldn't, better go find your momma.
This new Society began their set with Wayne Shorter's Deluge, off his JuJu album. This was as straight-ahead as things got, as remaining compositions were by Jackson and his band, veering between atmospheric, almost meditative pieces and those with his brand of harmolodics. Jackson has always had a pronounced rock feel to his playing, and this was on full display. At 72, the man can still play the hell out of the drums. The standout among his band was trumpeter John Wier, who combined great articulation with the ability to generate forward momentum, even on tunes with relatively static backdrops.
The biggest disappointment for me was someone I thought would be the biggest asset, at least on paper, and that was Melvin Gibbs. His bass was way too high in the mix, which wasn't his fault, but he turned on a fuzz device for his solos which flattened everything in its path. I know he was playing notes, because I could see his fingers move, but only noise was produced. Still, the crowd seemed to dig what he was doing.
The band played Gibb's Howard Beach Memoirs, originally done by Power Tools with Bill Frisell on their Strange Meeting album, and finished with a bang with Jackson's Bloodlife. All said, it was a solid performance by the band, who with a little tightening could prove to be a worthy addition to the lineage of The Decoding Society.
P.S. As an added bonus I was finally able to meet Mr. Dennis Gonzalez, who was there with his sons.