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January/February 2006

Wallace Roney
Mystikal
HighNote Records

When Wallace Roney released Prototype at the end of 2004, it seemed destined to pull in a far-flung audience thanks to both the trumpeter's brooding compositions and creative reworkings of Al Green and Andre 3000. One year later, Roney still has yet to become a household name, but he has returned with a new release that continues in that same strong direction.

The lineup on Mystikal is largely the same as last time: brother Antoine on reeds, Adam Holzman and wife Geri Allen on keyboards, Matt Garrison on bass, Eric Allen on drums. Percussionist Bobby Thomas, Jr. and turntablist Val Jeanty round out the group.

The album alternates between acoustic tracks like the title piece or Kenny Dorham's "Poetic" and electric songs. One of Roney's more compelling qualities comes in the way he utilizes elements of the latter setting--basic funk riffs, clavinet, electric piano--to keep the fire burning rather than smoothing down the melodic potential. A version of rapper Slick Rick's "Hey Young World," for example, gets a bluesy trumpet solo.

Roney, who collaborated with Allen on a couple tunes, continues to reach further as a composer as well. The only distraction from the program comes from Jeanty's samples and spoken-word interludes, which seem to pop up every time the horns take a break.

Originally published in January/February 2006
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