In Memoriam: movingtheriver.com Salutes The Fallen Of 2020/2021

We salute the fallen musicians, producers, promoters, actors, writers and presenters of 2020 and 2021.

Janice Long (pictured left – the first woman to have a daytime show on Radio 1, the first female presenter of ‘Top Of The Pops’ and a great supporter of upcoming artists)

Nick Kamen

Charlie Watts

Henry Woolf (teacher, poet, actor and member of Harold Pinter’s ‘Hackney Gang’)

Terence ‘Astro’ Wilson (co-founder of UB40)

Mick Rock

Baron Browne (bassist with Billy Cobham, Steve Smith’s Vital Information, Jean-Luc Ponty)

Joan Didion

Dean Stockwell

Jimmy Heath

Eddie Van Halen

Lyle Mays

Betsy Byars

Jon Christensen (drummer for Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek etc.)

McCoy Tyner

Ian St. John & Jimmy Greaves (Saint & Greavsie)

Wallace Roney (jazz trumpeter)

Onaje Allan Gumbs (keyboardist with Will Downing, Phyllis Hyman, Billy Cobham etc.)

Hal Willner

Lee Konitz

Little Richard

Jimmy Cobb (drummer on Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue)

Gary Peacock (bassist with Keith Jarrett, Miles Davis etc.)

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry

Deon Estus (bass player with Wham!, George Michael and Marvin Gaye in Ostend, solo artist and producer)

Nanci Griffith

Dusty Hill (ZZ Top bassist)

George Wein (pianist, impresario and founder of the Newport Jazz Festival)

Phil Schaap (jazz historian and key contributor to Ken Burns’ ‘Jazz’ documentaries)

Pee Wee Ellis

Stephen Sondheim

Matthew Seligman (Thomas Dolby/Thompson Twins/Soft Boys bassist)

Genesis P-Orridge (co-founder of Throbbing Gristle)

Cristina (post-punk singer of ‘Drive My Car’ fame)

Michael Apted (director of ‘The Coal Miner’s Daughter’, ‘Ptang Yang Kipperbang’, ‘Gorillas In The Mist’, ‘Bring On The Night’, ‘The World Is Not Enough’, ‘Gorky Park’ and co-creator/director of the ‘Seven Up’ TV series)

Ed ‘Duke Bootee’ Fletcher (teacher, hip-hip pioneer and co-writer of Grandmaster Flash/Furious Five’s ‘The Message’)

Phil Chen (bassist on Jeff Beck’s Wired and Blow By Blow)

Phil Spector

Cicely Tyson (Academy Award/Emmy-winning actress and wife of Miles Davis)

Larry McMurtry

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Beat poet)

Charles Grodin

Bill Withers

Al Schmitt (recording engineer for Steely Dan, Toto, Diana Krall etc.)

George Segal

Jackie Mason

Robbie Shakespeare (Sly & Robbie bassist)

Una Stubbs

Ed Asner

Jean-Paul Belmondo

Yaphet Kotto

Chick Corea

Malcolm Cecil (jazz bassist and co-producer/synth programmer on Stevie Wonder’s Innversions, Talking Book and Music Of My Mind)

Greg Tate (jazz and soul writer)

Barry Harris (bebop pianist)

Pat Martino

Rick Laird (Mahavishnu Orchestra bassist)

Milford Graves

Jon Hassell

Alan Hawkshaw (composer of many great TV and film themes including ‘Channel 4 News’, ‘Countdown’, John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’ and this cracker which soundtracked much of my 1980s:)

I wrote this cos I’d like to shake your hand/In a way you guys are the best friends I ever had
LOU REED, 1984

Ronald Shannon Jackson: Behind Plastic Faces

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Shannon Jackson in 2012

Musicians and writers have long puzzled over a definition of Harmolodics, the musical system invented by Ornette Coleman.

The man himself was famously coy on the subject, his brief liner note on the back of the Dancing In Your Head LP possibly the nearest he ever got to an outright definition: ‘Rhythms, harmonics and tempos are all equal in relationship’.

Of all the Ornette collaborators who developed their own take on Harmolodics, Ronald Shannon Jackson, who died in October 2013, probably came up with the most accessible version.

He had played with avant-garde pioneers Albert Ayler, Ornette, James Blood Ulmer and Cecil Taylor in the 1970s, but developed into a fine bandleader/composer in the ’80s, fronting a red-hot band featuring guitarist Vernon Reid (Living Colour), bassist Melvin Gibbs (Rollins Band), trombonist Robin Eubanks and saxophonist Zane Massey. (Shannon’s version of Harmolodics was so successful it possibly even influenced Ornette’s Virgin Beauty.)

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My dad used to get sent a lot of music in his capacity as a programme consultant for Channel 4 TV’s music arm back in the mid-1980s. A surprising amount of it would come in home-compiled cassette format. One such tape was simply called ‘Dance Music’ – I’ve still got it somewhere.

Most of it was fairly standard Brazilian and Blue Note stuff but one track stood out a mile and became somewhat of an obsession for my brother and I: Shannon’s ‘Behind Plastic Faces’, from the 1985 album Decode Yourself. It was the beginning of my love affair with his music and drumming.

He lays down one of his patented military grooves on Simmons drums underneath slithering fretless bass, chattering Reid guitar and Onaje Allan Gumbs’ summery keyboards.

But then the track suddenly changes gear halfway through and turns into a Afro-Funk/No-Wave rave-up, with Shannon moving over to the acoustic drums and Eric Person rhapsodising on alto sax.

The track and attendant album were recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York and produced by Bill Laswell. Decode Yourself seems very difficult to find these days, like many of Shannon’s numerous other ’80s albums.

Shannon Jackson was born and brought up in Forth Worth, Texas, just like Ornette. His father’s jukebox introduced him to BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, Charlie Parker and Dave Brubeck, but there were many other influences in the mix too, as he told writer Gary Giddins in 1985:

‘You’d wake up and hear hillbilly music on the radio. In school, we’d play (Wagner’s) “Lohengin”, at night we’d hear Bo Diddley or Bobby “Blue” Bland. On Sunday, we’d hear gospel. It was a total black community, and music wasn’t categorised as jazz or pop – nobody told you you weren’t supposed to like something.’