100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

From rock thunder machines to punk powerhouses, we count down the kings and queens of slam

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Ronald Shannon Jackson
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83. Ronald Shannon Jackson

If Ronald Shannon Jackson had done no more than play with avant-garde jazz icons Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor during a span of 12 years between 1966 and 1978, his stature would be secure. But Jackson, who incorporated parade-drumming patterns, African rhythms and funk into a singular, instantly recognizable style, went on to form his critically acclaimed Decoding Society, from which emerged Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid and Rollins Band bassist Melvin Gibbs. "He synthesized blues shuffles with African syncopations through the lens of someone who gave vent to all manner of emotions," Reid said of the late drummer-composer in a 2003 Fort Worth Weekly article. "I feel that the collision of values in his music really represents American culture." Jackson's seismic rumble also drove sessions led by John Zorn and Bill Laswell, and reached peak extremity in Last Exit, a take-no-prisoners punk-jazz quartet featuring Laswell, saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and guitarist Sonny Sharrock.

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