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Wallace Roney: Blue Dawn – Blue Nights (HighNote)

A review of the trumpeter's most recent album

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Wallace Roney, Blue Dawn-Blue Nights
The cover of Blue Dawn – Blue Nights by Wallace Roney

Let’s face it. Given what we’ve long known about his remarkable artistry and output, is it any wonder that Wallace Roney’s latest CD is worth acquiring for its deep soulfulness alone? On this outing the trumpeter delivers the goods upfront, just two tracks into a session brimming with youthful talent and energy, during a spacious, yearning, pin-drop recital of “Why Should There Be Stars.” No doubt his young charges experienced some jaw-slackening well before Roney put his horn down and this breathtakingly expressive performance drew to a close.

Even so, you won’t find Roney lingering in the spotlight for long here. He and drummer Lenny White, who appears on four tracks, seem more interested in guiding the ensemble than leading it, allowing plenty of space for a rotating lineup that features reedman Emilio Modeste, pianist Oscar Williams II, bassist Paul Cuffari, guitarist Quintin Zoto, and drummer Kojo Odu Roney, the trumpeter’s 15-year-old nephew. Though the renowned brass player doesn’t contribute to the colorfully varied compositions, stay tuned for when White’s sinuously tricky funk shuffle “Wolfbane,” with its intermittent bursts of swing and Modeste’s resounding tenor, gives way to a tartly reharmonized reprise of Dave Liebman’s “New Breed,” creating a compelling tandem in the bargain. There’s also a cover of Toto’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” which sounds, oddly enough, tailormade for Zoto’s slinky double stops and the dovetailing, blues-tinted interludes devised by Roney and Modeste, again on tenor.

Deservingly, Modeste, still a teenager at the time of this recording, is also allowed the last word, courtesy of two worthy original compositions: “Venus Rising,” a bravura showcase for both the frontline and the rhythm section, and “Elliptical,” the album’s vibrantly percussive and spiraling coda.

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Mike Joyce

A former editor of JazzTimes, Mike Joyce has written extensively on jazz, blues, country, and pop music for The Washington Post, Maryland and Washington, D.C. public television stations, and other outlets.