The inventive and adventurous open-minded approach of Wallace Roney’s first two HighNote releases—Prototype and Mystikal—is firmly maintained on Jazz. Roney is taking the eclecticism of all his influences and gradually merging them into a coherent whole, be it bebop, postbop, Trane, Herbie Hancock and Weather Report funk and fusion, hip-hop and, of course, Miles Davis, his guiding light. The trumpeter’s tight band on Jazz features brother Antoine on tenor, soprano and bass clarinet, Roney’s wife Geri Allen and Robert Irving III on keyboards, young newcomer Rashaan Carter on bass, Eric Allen on drums, and turntablists DJ Axum and Val Jeanty, most returning from Mystikal.
All of the compositions are first-rate, ranging from Wallace’s punchy, Latinesque “Vater Time,” multi-layered “Revolution: Resolution” and elegant slow waltz “Her Story,” to Antoine’s plaintive “Children of the Light” and spiritual dedication to his wife, “Nia.” Carter contributes a lovely, wistful ballad, “Inflorescent.” Eric Allen and Wallace co-wrote the mysterious “Fela’s Shrine,” inspired by Afrobeat’s creator Fela Kuti. Wallace adds to his growing collection of what he calls “modern pop songs” with an ambitious and stirring 11-minute version of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Stand.” Finally, as on Mystikal, the CD concludes with a stimulating version of a Bud Powell tune, “Un Poco Loco.”
The Roneys are at the top of their game here, each soloing brilliantly. Geri Allen’s expressive playing is a masterful combination of controlled technique and intricate phrasing. Irving III, Carter and Eric Allen are outstanding as well. Axum and Jeanty’s samples, scratches and spoken-word interludes add coloration and texture at selective moments on some pieces—perhaps not an essential ingredient, but certainly not a distraction. This recording is highly recommended to all whose jazz taste buds are receptive to a full variety of flavors.