15

Wallace Roney: In the Realm of Anti-Gravity

R.J. DeLuke By

Sign in to view read count
Much is made of trumpeter Wallace Roney coming from the Miles Davis school, a mentor-protégé situation that blossomed in the 1980s that Roney is very proud of. But that wouldn't be telling the whole story of the Philadelphia native who, in his prime years, has become one of the world's finest trumpet players, and a musician whose quest for innovation is everlasting.

Hearing jazz music around the house as a small child, it crept into his head and stayed there.

"People couldn't understand a young kid really loving the music that way because everybody else was liking R&B and figuring that's what you're supposed to like," Roney says. "That's the stuff that the common black experience was. Which is great. It was more that jazz took a special ear. It took a special kind of temperament and understanding and knowledge. If you understood jazz, it put you higher. On a different plateau than your next-door neighbor, and girls wearing hot pants and you just wanted to dance."

It was always music for Roney, taking lessons at a very young age, then being more informed on his instrument by childhood associations with legends Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie. He listened to all the great trumpet players. Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Blue Mitchell, and so many more. Roney was accepted into the fold by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter. He's played with Joe Henderson, Art Blakey and Cedar Walton. The trumpeter was part of a fantastic band headed by drumming icon Tony Williams, which included his great friend, the tremendous pianist Mulgrew Miller, sadly recently departed.

"Man, he was fiery. He was creative. He was impressionistic. He was everything, man. He was something else," Roney says of Williams. "And he was a virtuoso. The definition of virtuoso probably goes Charlie Parker, Tony Williams, John Coltrane. This guy could do anything on the drums he wanted to do. Anything. He said he'd just look at the drums and come up with stuff to do. And it wouldn't be showy. It'd just be amazing. It took the music to another place. He would play something in a creative space, or leave a space. And you would say: Wow. It would push me to want to do that on the trumpet. To be that innovative."

And I lived there," he says, reflecting back on those moments like they'd just occurred. "My whole life became—and is to this moment—living in that realm of anti-gravity. Like stepping on a meteor. Will it go down or will it go up. If you figure that out, you can go step on the next one."

And of course there was Miles, an idol. Miles the mentor. And also Miles, the man who summoned Roney for a meeting, albeit brief, after first hearing him play. Not the other way around.

Understanding A band leader on his own terms for many years now, Roney's always concerned with the next musical adventure. The next exciting moment that will take the music somewhere different. It might not happen every night. But it's out there if you're going for it. Roney consistently goes for it, and his new band of young firebrands is no different, as his album Understanding (HighNote, 2013) attests. It's a hard-driving, exploring and open jazz record. Many tunes are covers, but not standards. They have a shape different than the source, an approach sculpted by the trumpeter. The youngsters behind him—Arnold Lee and Ben Solomon on saxophones, Victor Gould or Eden Ladin on piano, Daryl Johnson on bass and Kush Abadey on drums—tear it up. Cats in their 20s, though Solomon is only 19.

"As far as it being a young band, my band has pretty much always been a young band, after I broke up a band with Lenny White and Buster Williams and Gary Bartz. That was a great band. But after a while these younger cats started wanting to come and play too. These guys, they don't have any hangups," says Roney. "Buster didn't either, by the way. Buster was always ready to go to the unknown. But now you got young guys that are ready to go to the unknown. I like that."

Roney is as frank and honest as the music he plays, and like his solos rolling into the air, twisting and turning, his stories about situations and fellow musicians do the same; entertaining and focused. While he is more introverted than a lot of musicians, his statements aren't guarded. He's forthright and natural.

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Interviews
Album Reviews
Interviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Understanding

Understanding

HighNote Records
2013

buy
 

Home

Muse Records
2012

buy
If Only for One Night

If Only for One Night

HighNote Records
2010

buy
Jazz

Jazz

HighNote Records
2008

buy
Jazz

Jazz

HighNote Records
2007

buy
Mystikal

Mystikal

HighNote Records
2005

buy

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Jul18Thu
Wallace Roney
Jazz Showcase
Chicago, IL

Related Articles

Read Shambhu: Soothing Guitar for Stressful Times Interviews
Shambhu: Soothing Guitar for Stressful Times
By Jakob Baekgaard
July 14, 2019
Read Rick Lawn: The Evolution of Big Band Sounds in America Interviews
Rick Lawn: The Evolution of Big Band Sounds in America
By Victor L. Schermer
July 2, 2019
Read Theo Croker: It's Just Black Music Interviews
Theo Croker: It's Just Black Music
By Keith Henry Brown
June 24, 2019
Read A Young Person's Guide to the Jazz Bastard Podcast Interviews
A Young Person's Guide to the Jazz Bastard Podcast
By Patrick Burnette
June 11, 2019
Read Joey DeFrancesco: From Musical Prodigy to Jazz Icon Interviews
Joey DeFrancesco: From Musical Prodigy to Jazz Icon
By Victor L. Schermer
June 2, 2019
Read Moers Festival Interviews: Marshall Allen Interviews
Moers Festival Interviews: Marshall Allen
By Martin Longley
May 30, 2019
Read Sam Tshabalala: Returning Home Interviews
Sam Tshabalala: Returning Home
By Seton Hawkins
May 27, 2019