Sunday, 9 August 2009

Wallace Roney...

Continuing the Edinburgh connection, here's a review from 2006 of a disc by a band I'd seen just beforehand at The Hub In Edinburgh. A memorable gig, but the disc fell a little short...


Atlantis; Mystikal; Stargaze; Just My Imagination; Hey Young World; Poetic; Baby’s Breath; Nice Town; I’ll Keep Loving You.

Wallace Roney (t); Antoine Roney (ts/ss/bcl); Geri Allen (p/elp); Adam Holzman (ky); Matt Garrison (b/elb); Eric Allen (d); Bobby Thomas Jr. (perc); Val Jeanty (turntables), (May 2005).

I’m sure that nobody will be surprised to learn that the new release by trumpeter Wallace Roney has something of the influence of Miles about it. If you missed his 2004 release Prototype (High Note), you may not yet be aware that electric Miles is currently exercising the mind of the official heir. We’re not talking about the out and out funk of On The Corner or the epic jams of Agartha, but Silent Way and even Bitches Brew have suddenly appeared on Roney’s radar. I saw the gig in Edinburgh that was given Mike Pyper’s approval in JR 72, and I too marvelled at Roney’s awesome command of his music. I was surprised to at just how far ‘out’ he ventured in a live setting, suggesting there’s plenty being left in the locker when he visits the studios.

Mystikal then is far more reigned in than the gig, but despite a few wobbles it generally builds on the largely fulfilled promise of Prototype. The addition of DJ Val to the cast is a major advance. Her contributions are more seamlessly integrated into the music than any turntablist I’ve yet heard, exactly the kind of innovation that Roney needs to embrace to sidestep accusations of an overly retro approach. Rest assured he’s not merely pitching for NuJazz cred, Mystikal at least matching any of his discs in the tradition of the Shorter-Hancock quintet for uncompromising improvisation. Jeanty’s contributions veer between narrative comment and sonic texture, always unobtrusive and in service of the music. It’s a Shorter composition, “Atlantis”, that opens. Allen’s piano meshes with Holzman’s Rhodes to locate things somewhere around late 1968. The title track follows and is a purely acoustic affair, that is until Jeanty inserts a telling voice sample which leads into the motoric funk of “Stargaze”. So far the transitions seem natural, the direction clear.

Less successful are the slightly too saccharine version of The Temptations’ “Just My Imagination” and the insipid reggae plod that is “Hey Young World”. A traditionalist reading of Kenny Dorham’s “Poetic” precedes another late 60’s quintet workout, a further slice of charged funk, and the tender balladry of the closing “I’ll Keep Loving You”, performed as a duet with his wife Geri Allen. Although I’d recommend Mystikal without too many qualms, its predecessor seemed more even and assured. Time for the less Janus-like outlook of his mentor to be asserted? I for one will be watching Roney’s next moves with interest.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, January 2006)

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