Ronald Shannon Jackson (Fort Worth, Texas, 1940) was an American jazz drummer, most notable for his unusual approach to his instrument, which drew as much inspiration from military and parade bands as from traditional jazz drumming.
He was the only person to have recorded and performed with the three prime shapers of free jazz: pianist Cecil Taylor, and saxophonists Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler.
In 1979 Ronald Shannon Jackson founded his own group, The Decoding Society, playing what has been dubbed free funk: a blend of funk rhythm and free jazz improvisation.
Vernon Reid (Living Colour), and Melvin Gibbs (Harriet Tubman, Rollins Band) both started their careers with Jackson. Both played and recorded extensively with Jackson. Others who played and recorded with the Decoding Society are:Byard Lancaster, Eric Person, Robin Eubanks, and James Carter.
With Sonny Sharrock, Peter Brötzmann, and Bill Laswell, Ronald Shannon Jackson was a member of the quartet Last Exit. In 1987 he co-founded the groups Power Tools (with guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Melvin Gibbs) and SXL (with Laswell, Indian violinist L. Shankar, Senegalese drummer Aiyb Dieng, and Korean percussion group SamulNori).
In 1988 Ronald Shannon Jackson and Bill Laswell teamed with Japanese saxophonist Akira Sakata in the trio Mooka. He has also recorded with Charles Tyler (Jackson's first recording date), James Blood Ulmer (Jackson was an original member of Ulmer's band Music Revelation Ensemble), Billy Bang, Albert Mangelsdorff.
Ronald Shannon Jackson's most recent tours included performances in Europe with Wadada Leo Smith and John Lindberg on one hand, and with Melvin Gibbs, Joseph Bowie, Vernon Reid, and James Blood Ulmer on the other.
Ronald Shannon Jackson died of leukemia on Saturday morning, October 19, 2013. He was 73.