Jazz CD Reviews
Wallace Roney – If Only for One Night – HighNote
Published on April 13, 2010
Wallace Roney – If Only for One Night – HighNote HCD 7202, 61:35 ***1/2:
(Wallace Roney – trumpet, co-producer; Antoine Roney – soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet; Aruán Ortiz – keyboards; Rashaan Carter – bass; Kush Abadey – drums)
Trumpeter Wallace Roney presents all aspects of his musicianship on If Only for One Night, his first live album. During the hour long, eight track outing recorded over four days in summer 2009 at New York City’s famed jazz venue, The Iridium Jazz Club, Roney and his quartet successfully move from bop territory to contemporary pop-slanted compositions, providing fans with a set that showcases Roney’s multi-hued personality.
Much, too much in fact, has been said about Roney’s association with and influence by Miles Davis. Suffice to say, Roney does share many Davis inclinations, but what of it? There’s plenty of Miles Davis in many of today’s jazz artists. Yet, listeners can find Roney echoing his old friend and mentor throughout these proceedings. Opener “Quadrant” is a good example. The tune has a funky jazz fusion arrangement that brings to mind Davis’ post-1970 work, most noticeable via Aruán Ortiz’s bubbly synth and the steady groove by bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer Kush Abadey. Unlike Davis’ post-Bitches Brew material, though, the groove never gets squeezed in, particularly when Ortiz switches to piano and rolls out a post-bop solo.
Davis’ inspiration is stronger on another party-popping piece “I Love What We Make Together,” a number Davis recorded only as a demo, initially dubbed “Al Jarreau,” and meant for that iconic jazz singer. The song commences with Roney on muted trumpet (another nod to Davis) and as the tempo builds Roney’s younger brother Antoine takes over on saxophone and really works the room over with high-flying flourishes. Roney also shows homage to a fellow Davis alum, the late Tony Williams – whom Roney performed with during the 1980s – during an aggressive hard bop cut of Williams’ “Only with You,” featuring piercing trumpet lines and boastful sax. While Roney and his band do not match the fire of Williams’ original, which included Roney, it gets darn close.
Roney has linked up with pop-shaded singers such as Cassandra Reed, Mary Stallings and Tricia Tahara and has not shied away from pop-affected styles. This contemporary side of Roney’s disposition shines during the title track, formerly a radio hit for vocalist Luther Vandross. Roney’s trumpet replicates Vandross’ glossy vocal while the arrangement maintains a balmy stride. The inclusion of a processed, digital voice, however, mars the otherwise warm mood. The other pop piece is an attractive ballad treatment of Janet Jackson’s “Let’s Wait Awhile.” Roney does for Janet what Miles Davis did for Michael (Jackson’s “Human Nature” was a Davis tour highlight in the 1980s). Roney ends with an intimate solo song, “FMS (For My Son)” where he illustrates his higher-register tone and brisk textures. It’s a fitting finale for an album that exhibits Roney’s full range as performer, arranger, leader and interpreter.
The engineering job is well done. The live sound is closely recorded and mixed effectively. Drums do not overpower the quiet bass pulses, for instance, and subdued keyboard nuances glide smoothly underneath the horn section. The Iridium’s space affords a slight echo that suits the material and the nightclub ambiance furnishes a natural resonance that keeps anything from sounding sterile or cool.
2. If Only for One Night
3. Only with You
4. I Have a Dream
6. Let’s Wait a While
7. I Love What We Make Together
8. FMS (For My Son)
— Doug Simpson