One Track Mind: Wallace Roney, “Combustible” from Understanding (2013)

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The appropriately named “Combustible,” part of an upcoming Wallace Roney project called Understanding, bursts out like a spit-shined hard-bop muscle car — and the trumpeter never takes his foot off the gas.

It’s a full-circle return for Roney, who had been experimenting with funk and experimental sounds more recently, and a reminder of the throwback joys that have surrounded his playing from the very beginning — despite the unfair, though oft-repeated charges that he’s simply a pre-fusion Miles Davis knockoff.

Roney’s associations with the elder firebrand — not to mention famous Davis-band alumni like Tony Williams and Ron Carter — certainly didn’t help matters. Roney appeared with Davis during what would become his final stop at Montreux, and later toured with and recorded a Grammy-winning album with Carter, Williams and other members of Davis’ 1960s-era group. Still, Roney actually came of age as Terence Blanchard’s successor in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and he also appeared on Dizzy Gillespie’s final live project, as well.

Since, he’s made his own way. Understanding, due on April 23, 2013, is Roney’s sixth for HighNote after a 1990s-era tenure with Warner Bros. Here, he takes on tracks from McCoy Tyner, Duke Pearson and Roy Brooks, as well as originals both from the trumpeter and his band.

It’ll make you forget all of that Miles stuff — in particular on the fleet, furiously inventive “Combustible.” Here, Roney has completely absorbed the dynamism of Fats Navarro — effortlessly blending brief glints of lyricism with stunning virtuosity.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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