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March 2001

Wallace Roney
No Room For Argument
Stretch

Wallace Roney has raged in the pages of numerous journals-this one included-that it's unfair for jazz writers to repeatedly carp about the closeness of his trumpet sound and approach to Miles Davis in his pre-Bitches Brew era. Therefore, it's puzzling and frustrating to hear a session where Roney not only recycles Davis' licks, but past album concepts as well. No Room For Argument is ostensibly a tribute to Roney's mentors and influences, but he obliterates the line between commemoration and mimicry. The title track, which opens the disc, sounds like alternate takes of what Davis did on Jack Johnson, while other tracks, like "Metropolis" and "Cygroove," are marred by tepid rhythms and lackluster solos.

There are, however, some good things on this disc. When Roney sheds the pseudo-funk and retro-fusion gimmicks, he displays the melodic verve and pungent wit that got everyone excited when he worked in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the early '80s. Such songs as "Midnight Blue" and "Christina" are more indicative of his talents, though they also aren't anywhere near as musically challenging as compositions from past Roney CDs like Intuition or The Standard Bearer. Some first-rate players, like pianist Geri Allen and bassist Buster Williams, save the disc from being a complete waste. But neither drummer Lenny White nor Adam Holzman, on an array of electric keyboards and synthesizer, add anything remotely arresting or entertaining. Val Jeanty's samples are so rudimentary they hardly embellish what are too often already tedious backgrounds.

Roney deserves credit for trying to do something different within an improvising context, but this stumbles so far and is so uninspired that I hope it will ultimately prove just a blip on the screen rather than indicative of a trend.

Originally published in March 2001
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