This gig took place in 1986, almost two years after Vernon Reid and Melvin Gibbs left the Decoding Society. For whatever reason, they returned for this New Year's Day gig at the Greenwich House.
The standing band had moved deeply into its African rhythms phase by this time, and most of its members had been playing together for over a year. They had recently added Henry Scott on trumpet, making Eric Person's job as saxophonist a little easier. Here is the largest Decoding Society ever assembled. Two guitars, two basses (acoustic and electric), and horns, along with Jackson, make up the band of seven. The set smokes, though the producers get no points for the live mix -- it's thin and brittle in places, and who knows how hard the Knitting Factory label worked to clean up the tapes. But the music -- that's another story. The infusion of Reid and Gibbs into this band moves the intensity level -- as well as the creativity level -- up a couple of notches. Jackson had become deeply interested in the rhythms of South and West Africa and added them to his already loaded arsenal of expression. His band, however, could never hope to match his intensity, as other gigs from this period attest. But here, with two monster players who he had known and played with for an extended period, all bets were off. The energy level and the feeling of goodwill among the musicians are evident in the loose and fiery way in which they interact during the improvisational breaks. Guitarists Reid and Cary DeNigris trade lines so quickly you almost can't tell when it shifts; Gibbs and Reggie Washington shape each other's basslines by interacting with Jackson's continually switching intervals. Tempos, keys, modes, and harmonies all become interchangeable as Jackson's rhythmic inventions dictate the pace. This set is so much funkier and jazzier than others in this series.
Bop lines are welcomed into the mix with rock and funk phrases -- the muted trumpet lines Scott plays on "Erri Moments" are brilliant. It's driven by confidence and showmanship, for one thing. Reid is brilliant in how understated he is, choosing to play with rather than around DeNigris or the horn players -- which is not the usual thing for him. The best examples of the band's strengths on this date are "Boiling Cabbage," "Flatbush Roti," and "The Janitor." This is one of the better issues in this series to be sure; it's solid from top to bottom.
|Flatbush Roti / Ronald Shannon Jackson||Ronald Shannon Jackson||11:03|
|Erri Moments / Ronald Shannon Jackson||Ronald Shannon Jackson||12:32|
|Sacred Language / Ronald Shannon Jackson||Ronald Shannon Jackson||7:09|
|Boiling Cabbage / Ronald Shannon Jackson||Ronald Shannon Jackson||7:12|
|Chocolate Envy / Ronald Shannon Jackson||Ronald Shannon Jackson||11:07|
|The Janitor / Ronald Shannon Jackson||Ronald Shannon Jackson||8:59|