LIVE: Eric Person Quartet plays the Music of Ronald Shannon Jackson @ the Falcon 2/9/2020

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Ronald Shannon Jackson is in that category of musicians I call “legendary but obscure”. Musicians and fans in the know are aware of him and his work but the general public is not. Ronald Shannon Jackson was best known for his association with Ornette Coleman’s electric free funk adventure Prime Time and then fronting a band of his own The DeCoding Society which has been described as by an entrée in Wikipedia as “a blend of avant-garde jazz, rock, funk and ethnic music”.

Eric Person became aware of his work through his working for this drummer when Eric arrived on the NY scene in the 80s. Eric admitted he was not familiar with his music until he auditioned to work for him. Eric himself is an accomplished musician he has performed with McCoy Tyner, John Hicks, Dave Holland and the World Saxophone Quartet. The band for the evening consisted of several Hudson Valley, NYC jazz stalwarts: Neil “Nail “ Alexander (keyboards), Bob Kopec (bass) and Dean Sharp (drums).

The band started in familiar jazz territory Dizzy Gillespie’s composition “Bebop”. The music started with the familiar bebop melody and rhythm that is familiar with what can be heard in any straight ahead jazz performance. This quickly evolved into a wild funk jam. Bob Kopec who is better known for performances on double bass, proved just as at ease with the electric bass in the pocket with Dean Sharp, both keeping the original time but making adventurous excursions outside and bringing them back again. Neil Alexander made some wild excursions on synthesizer taking the music to places where you would least expect it.

“Boiling cabbage” was one tune referring to food that was full of funk. The next curiously titled tune “Flatbush Roti”, is an homage to a Caribbean dish that consists of a spicy stew that is rolled into a flatbread that can be found in Brooklyn. You could aurally taste the flatbread and its combination with the stew. Bob Kopec wove the riff from the Grateful Dead song “Turn on Your Lovelight” throughout. The pace was slowed down with “Thai Asian Lullaby”. The apropos title “When Colors Play”, the quartet’s instruments were at play in a very spacey jam.

Dance of the Dreamcatcher started out with a funky snare pattern, joined by an in the pocket bassline becoming a danceable yet undanceable tune. Sweet Orange was the encore, another aural description of a food item. I had anticipated a more intense but less accessible set of music but the funk and danceable rhythms made this a nice introduction to those unfamiliar with avant-garde jazz.

Setlist: Bebop, Boiling Cabbage, Eerie Moments, Flatbush Roti, Thai Asian Lullaby, When Colors Play, Dance of the Dreamcatcher, Sweet Orange (encore)

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