Pain Relief Beyond Belief





From Blakey to Brown, Como to Costa, Eckstine to Eldridge, Galbraith to Garner, Harris to Hines, Horne to Hyman, Jamal to Jefferson, Kelly to Klook; Mancini to Marmarosa, May to Mitchell, Negri to Nestico, Parlan to Ponder, Reed to Ruther, Strayhorn to Sullivan, Turk to Turrentine, Wade to Williams… the forthcoming publication Treasury of Pittsburgh Jazz Connections by Dr. Nelson Harrison and Dr. Ralph Proctor, Jr. will document the legacy of one of the world’s greatest jazz capitals.


Do you want to know who Dizzy Gillespie  idolized? Did you ever wonder who inspired Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey? Who was the pianist that mentored Monk, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron, Elmo Hope, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme? Who was Art Tatum’s idol and Nat Cole’s mentor? What musical quartet pioneered the concept adopted later by the Modern Jazz Quartet? Were you ever curious to know who taught saxophone to Stanley Turrentine or who taught piano to Ahmad Jamal? What community music school trained Robert McFerrin, Sr. for his history-making debut with the Metropolitan Opera? What virtually unknown pianist was a significant influence on young John Coltrane, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant when he moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh in the 1940s?  Would you be surprised to know that Erroll Garner attended classes at the Julliard School of Music in New York and was at the top of his class in writing and arranging proficiency?


Some answers  can be gleaned from the postings on the Pittsburgh Jazz Network.


For almost 100 years the Pittsburgh region has been a metacenter of jazz originality that is second to no other in the history of jazz.  One of the best kept secrets in jazz folklore, the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy has heretofore remained mythical.  We have dubbed it “the greatest story never told” since it has not been represented in writing before now in such a way as to be accessible to anyone seeking to know more about it.  When it was happening, little did we know how priceless the memories would become when the times were gone.


Today jazz is still king in Pittsburgh, with events, performances and activities happening all the time. The Pittsburgh Jazz Network is dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the places, artists and fans that carry on the legacy of Pittsburgh's jazz heritage.






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       In Her Own Words

Wallace Roney, Intrepid Jazz Trumpeter, Dies From COVID-19 Complications At 59

Wallace Roney, Intrepid Jazz Trumpeter, Dies From COVID-19 Complications At 59

Wallace Roney performing at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, as part of the 2014 Winter Jazzfest. The trumpet player died Tuesday, March 31.

Jonathan Chimene/WBGO

Wallace Roney, a trumpeter and composer who embodied the pugnacious, harmonically restive side of post-bop throughout an illustrious four-decade career, died this morning at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J. He was 59.

The cause was complications from COVID-19, according to his fiancée, Dawn Felice Jones. She said Roney had been admitted to the hospital last Wednesday.

Roney first rose to prominence as a sharp young steward of the modern jazz tradition, winning national awards in his early 20s and joining several high-profile bands. But it was a public benediction by his idol and mentor, Miles Davis, that catapulted him into a rare stratum of jazz celebrity.

That moment, retold in the recent film Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, took place at the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival. Producer Quincy Jones had arranged for Davis to revisit his orchestral albums Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess, and Roney was enlisted to play the trumpet solos in rehearsal. Davis insisted that Roney also join him onstage, where he instinctively jumped in to handle some of the more technically demanding parts, and implicitly joined a chain of succession.

That Milesian association was both a proud feature and a persistent bug for Roney, who led a succession of dynamic small groups and released some 20 albums as a leader — the most recent being Blue Dawn-Blue Nights, issued on HighNote Records last year. In the dark gleam of his tone and the slithery tensions in his phrasing, Roney could often evoke his hero unreservedly. He won his lone Grammy award alongside the surviving members of the Miles Davis Quintet, for a 1994 album called A Tribute to Miles.

At the same time, Roney was an artist of granite resolve, exacting standards and his own unswerving compass. Critic Stanley Crouch once pronounced him "one of the best bandleaders in the music," in spite of any comparisons to Davis. "What one hears is a manipulation of the simple and the complex as well as a conception of improvising in which forms and approaches can be reordered on the spot," Crouch added, in a feature for The New York Times.

Wallace Roney was born on May 25, 1960, in Philadelphia. His father, also named Wallace Roney, was a U.S. Marshal who imparted an early admiration for Miles Davis; his mother, Roberta Sherman, favored Thelonious Monk. He had perfect pitch as a child and began trumpet lessons at age 5. By 12 he was the youngest member of The Philadelphia Brass, a prominent classical brass quintet. During this time, he came under the tutelage of Clark Terry, the first of his major jazz mentors.

By his teens, Roney's family was based in Washington, D.C., where he attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, before earning degrees from Howard University and the Berklee College of Music.

It wasn't long before Roney was turning heads, first on the local scene and then in New York. He circulated widely as a teenager, working with an honor roll of elders. One of those, drummer Art Blakey, brought him into the Jazz Messengers, which was widely known as a finishing school for top talent. (Roney succeeded Terence Blanchard in a trumpet chair that had also recently been occupied by Wynton Marsalis.)

Roney was then hired by another leading drummer, Tony Williams, who'd blazed a trail in the Miles Davis Quintet. In Williams' working band, which recorded several albums for Blue Note from the mid-1980s to the early '90s, Roney had an ideal platform for his slashing approach.

He made his own debut, Verses, in 1987, and over the next decade he averaged a new album a year. The last few releases of that run were made for Warner Bros., including Village, which featured contributions from pianist Chick Corea, drummer Lenny White and saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Michael Brecker. The album also featured Wallace's brother Antoine Roney on saxophone, and his future wife, Geri Allen, on piano.


Roney and Allen were married in 1995, and for a time they routinely appeared in each other's bands; he can be heard on several of her albums, including the classic Eyes...In the Back of Your Head. Their marriage ended in divorce, and Allen died in 2017.

Their children, Barbara and Wallace, Jr. are among Roney's surviving family. Survivors also include a stepdaughter, Laila Bansaiz; Jones, his life partner of more than a decade; his grandmother, Rosezell Roney; two brothers, Antoine Roney and Michael Majett; and three sisters, Crystal Roney, Marla Majett and April Petus.

While he was widely understood as a post-bop paragon, Roney delved meaningfully into funk and fusion, and he spent some formative time with free-jazz titan Ornette Coleman. For a time, even leading an acoustic ensemble, he made space for turntablist Val Jeanty.

In 2014, Roney presented the first public airing of some music that saxophonist Wayne Shorter had composed during his time in the Miles Davis Quintet. The suite, called Universe, had never been recorded, and Shorter entrusted it to Roney to realize. He premiered it at the Winter Jazzfest in New York, and performed it that summer at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, with a 19-piece chamber orchestra; the following week, he brought it to the Detroit Jazz Festival, in a performance captured by Jazz Night in America.

"It's like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls after all these years," Roney says in that radio episode. "You look up and you find this music from a time when it was most innovative."

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Wallace Roney, Jazz Trumpet Virtuoso, Is Dead at 59

Initially dismissed by many as a clone of Miles Davis, Mr. Roney, who has died of coronavirus complications, emerged as a major musician in his own right.

Wallace Roney performing in 2014 at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival at Marcus Garvey Park in Manhattan.
Wallace Roney performing in 2014 at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival at Marcus Garvey Park in Manhattan.Credit...Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

  • March 31, 2020

Wallace Roney, a virtuoso trumpeter whose term as Miles Davis’s only true protégé opened onto a prominent career in jazz, died on Tuesday in Paterson, N.J. He was 59.

The cause was complications of the coronavirus, his fiancée, Dawn Jones, said.

By the time he linked up with Davis, Mr. Roney was already a leading voice in what came to be called the Young Lions movement, a coterie of young musicians devoted to bringing jazz back into line with its midcentury sound. And he was already associated — sometimes distressingly so — with Davis’s legacy. Many dismissed him as a musical clone: ravishingly talented but lacking the necessary distance from his idol to claim creative agency.

Yet as his career went on, Mr. Roney managed to neutralize most of those criticisms. His nuanced understanding of Davis’s playing — its harmonic and rhythmic wirings as well as its smoldering tone — was only part of a vast musical ken. His playing bespoke an investment in the entire lineage of jazz trumpet playing.

And in Mr. Roney’s compositions, most of the ideas began at the center of jazz’s mainstream language and cut a path outward, often by way of funk, hip-hop, pop, Brazilian or Afro-Caribbean music.


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Mr. Roney made nearly 20 albums as a bandleader, including three for Warner Bros. at the peak of the Young Lions era, all grounded in his unshakable linguistic command and his appetite for harmonic adventure. His recordings for Muse in the late 1980s and early ’90s — especially his 1987 debut, “Verses” — featured a mix of A-list jazz musicians from Mr. Roney’s generation and the one before, and they established him as a premier young bandleader.

In his New York Times review of a 1988 concert by the drummer Tony Williams’s quintet, Jon Pareles singled out Mr. Roney as “the standout soloist, bitingly articulate at fast tempos and lucidly melodic in gentler passages.”

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Profiling Mr. Roney in The Washington Post in 1987, James McBride — who later became a prizewinning novelist — declared: “His name is Wallace Roney III. He is 27 years old. He is from Washington, and he is one of the best jazz trumpet players in the world.”

The two albums that Mr. Roney released in the early 2000s, immediately after leaving Warner Bros., were among his most memorable, and more formally ambitious than his early work. They represented a flush of creativity after years of frustration under contract to a label that often imposed unwelcome creative demands.

On “No Room for Argument” (2000), released on Stretch Records, Mr. Roney struck a nimble balance between historical reverence and futurist adventure, pairing a synthesizer with a Fender Rhodes electric piano and, at one point, mashing up parts of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” with Davis’s “Filles de Kilimanjaro.” Its follow-up, “Prototype” (2004), for High Note, featured different sorts of homage: separate reworkings of the titular OutKast ballad and Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”


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Mr. Roney won a Grammy in 1994 for his participation in “A Tribute to Miles,” filling the trumpet chair alongside the four supporting members of Davis’s second great quintet: Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter. All were younger than Davis — and indeed, throughout the latter half of his career, Davis worked almost exclusively with junior musicians. But before meeting Mr. Roney, he had never agreed to mentor another trumpet player.

Struck by Mr. Roney’s performance at a 1983 tribute concert at Radio City Music Hall, Davis invited the young trumpeter to join him at his home in Manhattan the next day. A close friendship blossomed between the 23-year-old upstart and the ailing elder, one that culminated in a momentous performance at the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival, just months before Davis’s death. It was the only time Davis publicly revisited material from his back catalog.

With Quincy Jones directing, the two trumpeters stood shoulder to shoulder in what would become a timeless piece of postclassic jazz iconography. Davis, wizened and wire-thin, hunched over a music stand alongside his burly young protégé, who picked up the slack whenever his idol missed a note.

“A lot of people like to say, ‘Yeah, well, I hung with Miles, but we never talked about music,’” Mr. Roney said in a 2016 interview. “Well, guess what? I did. I loved him because of his music, and he talked to me about music all the time. You definitely had to earn Miles Davis’s respect, and not everybody could do that.”

Mr. Roney remembered that Davis — whose birthday was just one day apart from his — had once told him, “You look at me just like how I used to look at Dizzy,” referring to his own mentor Dizzy Gillespie.

Wallace Roney III was born on May 25, 1960, in Philadelphia, to Roberta Sherman, a homemaker, and Wallace Roney Jr., a U.S. Marshal and vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees. His parents divorced when he was young, and he lived for a time with his grandmother, Rosezell Roney.


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In his teens, he lived with his father in Washington, enrolling in the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. His father’s friends were not professional musicians, but they had an abiding devotion to jazz. Mr. Roney often recalled that they would hold listening parties at which each person would listen closely to a different instrument as a track played, and then would compare notes.

The immersion in a music-loving family gave Mr. Roney a head start — but he was also loaded with preternatural talent. He had perfect pitch, and he impressed his father by teaching himself the basics of the trumpet using the family’s horn, which had been lying around unused. At 12, he became the youngest member of the Philadelphia Brass, a professional classical quintet.

By his midteens, he was already making trips to New York to perform. In his city debut, in 1976, he played at Ali’s Alley, a loft space in SoHo.

“As soon as Mr. Roney commenced to swing, the noise level in the club immediately dropped off, and those in the middle of conversations or laughing and joking turned their attention to the bandstand,” the critic Stanley Crouch later wrote of that show for a profile in The New York Times in 2000. In the youthful trumpeter’s playing, Mr. Crouch wrote, “the passion for jazz was so thorough that the atmosphere inside the club was completely rearranged.”

“At the end of the tune, the room took on a crazily jubilant mood, and the clapping wouldn’t stop,” Mr. Crouch added.


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In addition to his fiancée, a vocalist and educator whom he had known since high school, and his grandmother Rosezell, Mr. Roney is survived by his sister, Crystal Roney; a brother, the saxophonist Antoine Roney; two half sisters, April Petus and Marla Majett; a half brother, Michael Majett; a son, Wallace Vernell Roney, a trumpeter now on the rise on the New York scene; and a daughter, Barbara Roney. His marriage to Geri Allen, a noted pianist and frequent musical collaborator during Mr. Roney’s early career, ended in divorce.

In both 1979 and 1980, Mr. Roney won DownBeat magazine’s award for best young jazz musician of the year. A decade later, he pulled off a similar double victory: He was voted trumpeter to watch in back-to-back DownBeat critics’ polls in 1989 and 1990.

He attended both Howard University and Berklee College of Music before moving to New York City to pursue a career.

After years of lean times (jazz in particular was in a commercial slump for much of the 1980s), he received two separate calls within the same month inviting him to join the bands of Tony Williams and Art Blakey, both pre-eminent elder drummers. He spent years in both ensembles before his solo career took off.

Even in later years, Mr. Roney continued to balance his devotion to the greats of jazz’s past with an urge to make his own way. In 2014, he starred in the public debut of “Universe,” a large-ensemble suite that the saxophonist Wayne Shorter wrote for Davis in the late 1960s, but that had never been performed.

“I see my music as an extension of ‘Nefertiti,’ ‘A Love Supreme,’ Tony Williams’s Lifetime, Herbie’s sextet and Miles’ last band,” Mr. Roney said in a 2004 interview with JazzTimes.


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“You could look at it as if Lifetime had a gig one night, and Miles sat in, and Wayne came and played, and Herbie played and wrote some arrangements, and Joe Zawinul came and sat in too, and Ron and Me’shell Ndegeocello played bass, and Prince, Sly Stone, Bennie Maupin and Mos Def dropped by,” he said. “That’s part of what I’m doing.”

He added: “The other part is updating it with stuff that I hear today, the new synthesizers and the new sounds that appeal to me. I bring all those elements together and still try to play what I consider straight-ahead, innovative music.”



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