I can still feel the sound filling the room.
It was June of last year, and I was sitting on a couch, in a poster-plastered, cramped but comfortable room in Ronald Shannon Jackson’s house, not far from downtown Fort Worth.
The drummer and composer was having photos taken behind his drum kit, and powerless to resist the sticks before him, it wasn’t long before Jackson was roaring at full volume.
That afternoon was, regrettably, the only time I spent with Jackson, who died last week at 73 after a long battle with leukemia.
I don’t pretend to know him intimately, but over the course of that summer afternoon, the legend was remarkably generous with his time, going so far as unplugging his home phone so he could focus fully on our conversation.
At the time, it seemed as though Jackson, who hasn’t always enjoyed the visibility of fellow Fort Worth sonic explorers like Ornette Coleman, was ripe for rediscovery.
Thanks to local musicians Curtis Heath and Britt Robisheaux, Jackson was working on new projects, which would have given him the chance to not only fully own his recordings, but be exposed to a new generation.
According to Heath, a new recording with Bill Frisell and Vernon Reid was in the works, as was remixing unreleased material from earlier in his career. (Jackson’s July 2012 Kessler Theater set, his final public performance, is available on CD, via his website.)
“There is a gnawing feeling inside of me that we missed a monumental opportunity to get these guys [Jackson, Frisell and Reid] back together,” Heath says. “Shannon was ferociously writing new material until the very last minute.”
Heath isn’t sure what happens next. Jackson’s son Talkeye is the executor of his father’s estate and Heath says they “haven’t had that conversation yet.”
It’s bittersweet knowing Jackson stood on the edge of the spotlight again — with the chance of his sound filling many rooms — but his time simply ran out.