1/  Red Warrior                                (Jackson)                     4.43
  2/  Ashes                                      (Jackson)                     4.40
  3/  Gate To Heaven                             (Jackson)                     5.14
  4/  In Every Face                              (Jackson)                     6.06
  5/  Elders                                     (Jackson)                     13.33
  6/  What's Not Said                            (Jackson)                     4.15
  7/  Harmolodic Christmas                       (Jackson)                     4.58

          Recorded at Sorcerer Sound, Krypton Studios and Platinum Island Studio,
            New York City
          Engineer at Sorceror Sound: Jason Corsaro
          Engineer at Platinum Island and Krypton: Robert Musso
          Reissue Engineer: Rob McCabe
          Mixed by Jason Corsaro at Platinum Island
          Assistant at Platium Island: Oz Fritz
          Remixed by Sascha Von Oertzen
          Problem Killer: Ian Linault
          Produced by Bill Laswell and Ronald Shannon Jackson
          Reissue Producer: Jim Eigo
          Executive Producer (reissue): Michael Dorf
          Mastered at Masterdisk by Howie Weinberg
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums; Jef Lee Johnson: guitar; Stevie Salas: guitar; Jack DeSalvo: guitar; Ramon Pooser: bass; Conrad Mathieu: bass.

          1990 - Axiom/Island (USA), 314-510 149-1 (Vinyl)
          1990 - Axiom/Island (USA),  314-510 149-2 (CD)
          2000 - Knit Classics/Knitting Factory Records (USA), KCR-3032 (CD)
          2016 - Bill Laswell Bandcamp (digital)
Note: The Axiom/Island version does not contain track 7.
Note: The Knitting Factory version reverses the order of tracks one and two.
Note: Bill Laswell does not play on this album.


Perhaps because of Jackson's association early in his career with avant garde legends such as Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman, he has never been afraid of experimentation in his own Decoding Society groups, and on this 1988 [1990 - DB] release (reissued as part of the Knit Classics series) he elects to use a rather unusual lineup of three electric guitars and two basses, likely due in part to the influence of Bill Laswell and Jackson's stint with the hardcore jazz metal No Exit band. The result is mostly a very good slice of extroverted modal jazz funk, with a sound at times which is very close to James "Blood" Ulmer's harmolodic, guitar-based Music Revelation Society, of which Jackson was also a member for a time. Jackson is in fine form throughout, a polyrhythmic whirlwind who comes off as a cross between Art Blakey and Elvin Jones. Jackson supports the guitars at times, but at other times comments on their playing or acts as another solo voice. Several tracks open with a soulful, legato melody rendered by one or more of the guitars, with Jackson churning underneath, establishing his own independent but related rhythmic pulse. Sometimes this dual agenda is sustained throughout an entire piece, as on the lovely opening track, "Ashes," which has a melody vaguely similar to Coleman's "Lonely Woman." The guitars maintain a plaintive, lyrical mood while Jackson adds sinew and backbone with his constant rumbling percussive assault.

On other tracks, Jackson and the guitars move in and out of tempo, periodically locking together rhythmically and then separating to follow different but related paths. Tempo changes within certain pieces are also common. The emotional centerpiece of the CD is the thirteen-minute "Elders," which opens with Jackson blazing, and the guitarists (Steve Salas, Jack Desalvo, Jef Lee Johnson) taking the opportunity to stretch out and do some serious collective fret shredding. Even on this piece, though, the dynamics are turned 'way down midway for some introspective interplay between the two bassists. On the last track, "Harmolodic Christmas," Jackson has more surprises in store, providing a world music adventure with has one of the guitarists switching to mandolin or banjo (uncredited), and Jackson playing a medieval double reed instrument know as a schalmei (also called a shawm). Like other Jackson reissues in the series (at least the ones which I've heard), this one holds up very well, and these reissues should hopefully give Jackson some of the popular recognition he missed the first time around.

Bill Tilland (courtesy of the Motion website)


Forsaking the keyboard and saxophone lineups of many of his Decoding Society bands, composer/drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson uses a three-guitar and two-bass group on Red Warrior, creating a dense musical backdrop for his inspired arrangements. The "stripped down" band configuration is reflected in the loose, jam session feel of the record, which, unlike the earlier, more sonically varied album Decode Yourself, includes a good number of blues-based tracks ("Ashes," "Gates to Heaven," and "In Every Face"). This is not to say Red Warrior is a straightforward record, by any means. As is Jackson's inclination, the mix is expanded with plenty of jazz improvisation, weaves of effects-riddled guitar lines, complex head statements, and, of course, the drummer's pan-stylistic rhythmic support. The album also contains a variety of material, including the "Mahavishnu Orchestra meets Dr. John," New Orleans shuffle blues "Red Warrior" and the sprawling, free-form "Elders." Excellent contributions are made by the entire band, which includes guitarists Jef Lee Johnson, Steve Salas, and Jack DeSalvo and bassists Ramon Pooser and Conrad Mathieu. Red Warrior is just one of several, very impressive releases to be put out in the last two decades by Jackson, who, like contemporary composer Henry Threadgill, has unforgivably been overlooked and unsung all these years.

4 1/2 stars out of 5

Stephen Cook (courtesy of the All Music Guide website)