Thursday Jazz: Wallace Roney
Words By Zach Zeidner
When people normally hear Wallace Roney for the first time, they immediate either think it’s some lost Miles Davis recording they have never heard of. In a player like Wallace Roney, the influence of Miles Davis is more profound than with many other musicians. Wallace Roney, a contemporary hard-bop and post-bop trumpeter, has been respected by his Jazz peers since the young age of sixteen. Wallace Roney has been attributed as the trumpeter with one of the closest resemblances of Miles Davis’ sound. Some could compare his sound resemblance to that of John Kadlecik to Jerry Garcia or Derek Trucks to Duane Allman; however, Roney has a slight advantage. In 1983, Roney performed at a Miles Davis birthday gala at Carnegie Hall. After hearing his amazing talent, Miles Davis decided to mentor the young Roney. In 1991, Roney shared the stage with Miles Davis in Davis’ momentous 1991 Montreux concert.
Despite having the incredible opportunity to work with one of the greatest musicians of all time, Roney has played with his share of legends. Roney has been a primary part of ensembles with Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Ornette Coleman, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, David Murray, Curtis Fuller, Carole King, Joni Mitchelle, and Dizzy Gillespie as well as many others. Roney is known as one of the few contemporary musicians in his generation in the Jazz scene that worked directly with jazz masters to develop his sound, and it shows in his playing. Roney has always been somewhat plagued by the fact that his early recordings were so similar to Miles Davis’ style. Roney mainly focused on the modality aspect of Miles Davis’ playing than mostly anything else. Kind of Blue served as a baseline for what Roney was trying to do with his music. It wasn’t until 2005 when Roney released Prototype that his sound truly began to diverge from a strictly hard-bop/ post-bop sound into a more experimental sound.
Prototype is a mainly experimental album that fuses many of the elements of music Miles Davis focused on, as well as incorporates more technical aspects in the music attributed to contemporary Jazz today. Throughout the album Roney demonstrates his eerie ability to sound exactly like Miles Davis. His solos are either muted or filled with lower register tones and lots of space or are high tempo, lavish, and driving. Roney’s ability to jump between styles of Davis’ playing so flawlessly, exemplifies the incredible bond the two developed as Davis mentored Roney. The album includes Don Byron on bass clarinet, Antoine Roney on saxophones, Clifton Anderson on trombone, Adam Holzman on piano and keys, Geri Allen on piano and keys, Matthew Garrison on bass, Eric Allen on drums and DJ Logic on turntables.
The album focuses somewhat on more experimental based compositions such as “Cyberspace”, “Prototype”, and the space funk jam “Quadrant 329-4-526”. These jams seem to evoke the styling of post-Bitches Brew compositions, open-ended jams with little chord structure. However, the more refined sound of the instruments evokes a stronger resemblance to that of Herbie Hancock’s Sextant or Mwandishi Orchestra recordings.
The album also provides an accompaniment of an Al Green cover, “Let’s Stay Together”. This jam immediately seems like a tribute to the outstanding performance of this tune by Jimmy Smith on Root Down (and get it!) whom passed the year Roney released Prototype. Although they may not be correlated at all, it is still a fact to consider. The album also includes a couple post-bop tunes, “Shadow Dance” and “Then And Now”, which both evoke a Second Great Quintet sound that closely resembles albums such as Miles in The Sky and Nefertiti respectively. The album includes a funky and soulful experimental tune entitled “Thee Views of The Blues” which is an outstanding jam that provides all the velocity of a post-bop tune with the groove of a hard-bop tune and the abstractness of the avant-garde. Finally the album ends with a beautiful ballad “Secret Identity” that lulls you back to reality as the album finishes and you’ve realized the journey Roney has sent you on.
Wallace Roney's Prototype on Amazon.com