Wallace Roney’s Pure Jazz

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On Saturday, October 22, 2005 GuluWalk Day will hit the streets in 42 cities worldwide in the first-ever global show of solidarity for the ‘night commuters’ of northern Uganda. In Toronto, home of the original GuluWalk, walking shoes will replace cars on the city’s main strip, Yonge Street, with The hush on stage at Joe’s Pub was circumvented with the squeal of brass.  It’s piercing shrill evolved into a cacophony of instruments screaming, wailing, writhing, throbbing, breaching the silence with a language and tonality that took on a musical expression all its own. 

It had an intelligence that created and recreated itself while giving order to chaos.  The Wallace Roney Band was playing pure jazz.  They were playing the songs within their new CD Mystikal.  And indeed, an aura of the mystical was apparent as the music struck upon the essence of form without form in search of the enigma that is true jazz.  The blissful faces of the musicians were enraptured by some musical high that elevated their souls beyond time. Harmonies emerged touching levels of vibrations too high to be discerned by mind, understood only at the heart level.  As the melodies, harmonies and vibrations crescendo and converged without restraint, it was reborn and sought to be free.  Once released, it merely stopped, leaving behind the power of its expression with all in the room.  This was the music of Wallace Roney.

There is no doubt that Miles Davis influenced Wallace Roney.  In fact, Miles was Roney’s mentor.  While some may say that Mr. Roney is an imitator, I would say, not so.  While there is certainly an essence of Miles in Roney’s music, the trumpeter has managed to carve out his own nitch keeping Miles alive through his trumpet while remaining true to his own considerable talents.

Wallace set off on his musical odyssey at the age of 4.  He grew up in Philadelphia but attended high school in Washington, D.C. “My father, who was a boxer and United States Marshall, used to mess around with the trumpet.  I used to sneak and play my father’s trumpet until my grandmother bought me my own,â€? claimed Roney who later attended Howard University for a year and then Berklee College of Music for another year. 

Roney likes to experiment with his music and thus includes turntablist, DJ Val Jeanty, among those who play with his band. He collaborated with her on his record “No Room For Argumentâ€? and continues to add a little turntable spice to the mix.  His band consists of his brother Antoine Roney on sax; Eric Allen on the drums; Ugonna Okegwo on bass; and Adam Holtzman on piano.

“I hear a lot of music in my head but I listen to other musicians to inspire me.  If there is something that is happening that I can incorporate and take further, I am very open to that.  I think at this point it’s not about trying to copy anyone but seeing if I can take something and express it in my own way while adding to it.  I try not to lose the greatness of what jazz is but rather make it relevant to what’s going on with me as wellâ€? explained Roney.
There are occasions when jazz musicians comment that individuals who haven’t explored jazz often pass on jazz because they have formed a preconceived idea about jazz.  However, jazz is comprised of many forms. 

“I think these misconceptions are two-foldâ€? commented the talented artist.  “I think in many ways the record companies don’t get behind jazz music.  If they took one-third of the PR budget that they use for rock, pop and hip hop music, jazz would definitely flourish.  Hip hop I have respect for because these artists did the music even when they had no support.  Once it garnered support the record companies jumped in and put money behind it.  I think R&B and hip hop are relevant because its black music and it speaks to our people. However, I think to the overall intellectual music community, that type of music is non-threatening.  Jazz is more than threatening.  Jazz has the ability to be the superior music.  Unfortunately, this is still a racist world. Thus, those in power would hate to say that Charlie Parker, Dizzy or John Coltrane is greater than classical Paganni.  Thus, the support is not there,â€? remarked the astute trumpeter who is married to pianist Gerri Allen.

“I see my music as an extension of what is great about jazz musicâ€? said the occasional pugilist.  “I hope to extend and broaden the music of the people whom I had the privilege of learning from, such as Miles Davis.  I think Miles picked me because out of all the people he trusted, he felt that maybe, I would do something with what he gave me.  That is what I like to believe I am doing. I am very influenced by the music of Miles, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman.  I believe when an artist contributes something it should be continued. I see myself as taking the best of it all and utilizing and regurgitating it via how it sounds within meâ€? explained Roney who also released the album Prototype on High Note Records.

Roney’s band has recently toured Minneapolis, Chicago and Dayton.  He will be playing the upcoming Duke Ellington Jazz Festival in Washington, D.C.  He toured Europe. “The Europeans are a receptive audience.  If it wasn’t for Europe we probably wouldn’t have many jazz forums in which to performâ€? remarked the attractive musician.  Roney is proud of his new CD Mystikal.  “Mystikal is an extension of the last record I made.  It’s my favorite recording so far.  I feel that everything I wanted to say or do was fulfilled in this CD.  This CD has mystical, spiritual forces as I see it,â€? explained Wallace.  “I took this CD much further than all the others.  My wife, Gerri Allen, one of the great piano players of today, also performed on this album.â€?

“I like to feel I live by truth,â€? stated Roney of his music and life.  “I try to find truth in every way possible and be honest to it.  I don’t wake up in the morning and say I am great.  I wake up in the morning and ask how can I be better?  And if I become better than I ask how can I go further?  I reflect on what’s my purpose in being better?  What’s my goal?  I ask myself whether the goal is to be part of a whole. I ponder this and just keep going forward knowing I am acknowledging something greater.  Far greater than I can ever imagine and I let it drive me.  I then allow my music to honor that goal.â€? 

For more reports please or call (212) 481-7745 to order the newsstand edition of The Black Star News the world’s favorite Pan African news weekly. Also ask for Vernon Verdree in the advertisement department.

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