1/  Bebop                                      (Dizzy Gillespie)             0.49
  2/  Decoding                                   (Jackson)                     4.15
  3/  Theives Market                             (Jackson)                     3.56
  4/  Behind Plastic Faces                       (Jackson)                     4.55
  5/  Software Shuffle                           (Jackson)                     2.35
  6/  Snake Alley                                (Jackson)                     3.44
  7/  Undressing                                 (Jackson,Reid)                7.56
  8/  Love Words For a Queen                     (Jackson,Reid)                6.29
  9/  Tricky Vic                                 (Jackson)                     3.55

          Recorded at Electric Lady Studios, New York City
          Produced by Bill Laswell for Material/OAO
Eric Person: soprano and alto saxophones; Robin Eubanks: trombone; Akbar Ali: violin; Vernon Reid: Les Paul, Steinberger, Esp guitars, Roland GR-700 guitar synthesizer, banjo; Onaje Allen Gumbs: Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer; Melvin Gibbs: electric bass; Reverend Bruce Johnson: electric bass; Ronald Shannon Jackson: Sonor and Simmons drums; Bill Laswell (2): drum computer programming; DECODING SOCIETY CHORUS (6) - Ann Boyle, David 'D' Hershkovits, Robin Eubanks, Akbar Ali, Jim Grant, Eric Person, Melvin Gibbs, Reverend Bruce Johnson, Abel Domingues and Ronald Shannon Jackson.

          1985 - Island Records (USA), 7 90247-1 (Vinyl)
          1985 - Island (Japan), J32D20010 (CD)
Note: Bill Laswell does not play on this album.


The range of styles found on drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decode Yourself is amazing, but what really impresses is the way Jackson unifies the disparate strains with his unique arrangements and varied rhythmic support. The combination of focus and expansiveness in this Texan's approach is not surprising, considering his tenures with both hard boppers, like James Clay, and explorative jazz figures, such as Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and James Blood Ulmer. From Coleman's trailblazing Prime Time group in particular, he developed a taste for electric ensembles, abstract R&B, and musical variety. From that multifaceted perspective, Jackson not only pays homage to jazz with the inclusion of a manic cover of Dizzy Gillespie's "Bebop" and the futuristic big-band swing number "Decoding," but he also works in some funk ("Undressing"), blues ("Love Words for a Queen"), Western swing ("Software Shuffle"), Afro-Caribbean rhythms ("Thieves Market"), and thrash ("Tricky Vic"). Jackson reconfigures and updates these genre elements with synthesizers and electric drums, a load of harmolodic improvisation, and a pleasingly incongruous mixture of jittery, yet firm rhythms and murky, elongated horn charts. The cavalcade of music is expertly handled by Jackson's band, the Decoding Society, which includes heavyweights like saxophonist Eric Person, trombonist Robin Eubanks, guitarist Vernon Reid, and bassist Melvin Gibbs. Decode Yourself is an excellent title for newcomers and fans alike.

4 1/2 stars out of 5

Stephen Cook (courtesy of the All Music Guide website)