Music » Critic's Choice

Wallace Roney Quintet




I'll give you several good reasons to mark your calendar for Wallace Roney's sets next week, but his previous local appearance isn't one of them. When Roney (who bears Miles Davis's influence like the mark of Cain) appeared last year at the Jazz Showcase, he brought some not-ready-for-prime-time players--a hurriedly assembled, underrehearsed group over which Roney hovered like a counselor at band camp. I doubt he'd have ever brought such a band to either coast, and I took it as an insult to both his listeners and this city's jazz heritage. But 15 months later, that embarrassing event should serve Chicago well: Roney has something to prove, and he's bringing the musicians who can help him do just that. Geri Allen heads up the rhythm section from the piano; one of the stellar lights in modern jazz, she converses effortlessly in every idiom from bop to hip-hop to free on her latest album, Eyes in the Back of Your Head (which features both Roney and Ornette Coleman). The expansive, velvet-toned bass of Buster Williams has graced the work of countless leaders, including Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, and Frank Morgan, and galvanized the cooperative quartet Sphere. I can't wait to hear him hooked up with drummer Lenny White, the onetime fusion king who has emerged as an innovative keeper of the jazz flame. And Roney's younger brother Antoine has developed into a hard-nosed and versatile saxophonist, greatly influenced by Wayne Shorter--perfect for Wallace's reconstruction of the music that Miles Davis made with Shorter's considerable assistance in his classic quintet of the mid-60s. That band parted the hard-bop waters with currents of free jazz, and Roney's powerful and propulsive reevaluation of its music makes the brand-new Village (Warner Brothers)--which features all these sidemen except Williams--one of the better albums this year. Roney himself can play a tough, blistering trumpet, and though he occasionally lapses into a rather wooden earnestness (sounding like jazz's answer to Al Gore), he has few peers when it comes to invoking the smoldery emotions Davis introduced to the instrument. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, September 5 and 6, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, September 7, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by William Claxton.

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