There has always been an underlying order in the seeming anarchy of Ornette Coleman's melodic jazz. That order, though, has rarely been as evident or as compelling as it was in the show by Ronald Shannon Jackson & the Decoding Society at the 9:30 club Saturday night. Jackson, formerly a drummer for Coleman and Cecil Taylor, provided the defining frame that his five younger musicians colored in. A physically powerful drummer who uses all four limbs for constant, independent rhythms, Jackson brought his rolling phrases into wavelike surges that crested, spilled and surged again..
Bruce Johnson played repeating funk riffs on one electric bass, while Melvin Gibbs played high, fast fills on the other. Guitarist Vernon Reid mixed the jabbing, jagged phrases of James Blood Ulmer with the more lyrical blues phrasing of B.B. King. Alto saxophonist Zane Massey (son of the jazz composer Cal Massey) and trumpeter Henry Scott provided a sense of melody with their strong, sustained horn lines. Just when the band seemed on the brink of losing control with six solos going at once, it would come to a perfect stop, pause and march off together in a new direction..
Don Cherry, Coleman's original trumpeter, opened the evening with a delightful one-man show. With his charismatic stage presence, Cherry soon had the crowd humming his melodies and clapping his rhythms as he improvised on trumpet and scat vocals.