Picks and Pans Review: Mandance

updated 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society

While it can be called a group on the cutting edge of jazz, the Decoding Society dooms all more specific attempts at categorization. As its exuberant drummer, composer and philosopher, Ronald Shannon Jackson, explains, "It would be easier to map out what styles are not present in what we do. You'll hear everything from Hungarian and classical (Eastern and Western) and polkas to rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, funk and hillbilly. At the bottom of it all is a strong beat." If you absolutely must have a tag, Jackson recommends you settle for "Heavy Swing." Not surprisingly, the influence of Ornette Coleman's harmelodic theory is easy to decode in Mandance, the Decoding Society's first release for a national label; Coleman and Jackson, both Fort Worth natives, worked together in New York in the mid-70s. But the material that is most like Coleman's is the least interesting on Mandance. What's new and compelling is the genre fricassee that results from Jackson's eclectic tastes. On the title cut, a swashbuckling rock guitar solo is superimposed on two melodies, one low and loping, the other evocative of a high-stepping, brassy and extraordinarily hip marching band. On lola (a plucking, twangy "Decoded version of country music," Jackson says), a barnyard banjo works against horns swelling and subsiding as in Chinese classical music. There's also the fast-paced humor of Belly Button. Jackson describes it best, saying it's like "Abbott and Costello on LSD on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange."

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