Wallace Roney, “Home” (CD review)

(Recently published in JazzTimes; direct link)

Old-school funk and fusion? Contemporary R&B? Straight-ahead jazz? Open-air modal music? One never quite knows what to expect from a new Wallace Roney project—that is, aside from impressive blowing and a tone that, while still sometimes evocative of Miles, is its own thing of beauty: full, resonant, deftly shaded, often moving in unpredictable and mysterious ways.

Roney, joined by his regular bandmates and several guests, touches on several of the stylistic strains mentioned above on Home. It’s chockfull of the leader’s dazzling displays, including the long tones and then quick runs of his “Evolution of the Blues”; that tune also offers a showcase for engaging tenor and soprano solos by Antoine Roney, Wallace’s younger brother, buoyed by the rhythmic punches of pianist Aruán Ortiz, bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer Kush Abadey. Roney’s way with a mute, to produce gorgeously dark and smoky sounds, is on display on the floaty title track as well as the exceedingly slow chestnut “Ghost of Yesterday,” limned with Ortiz’s lush chordings.

Wayne Shorter gets a mini-salute here, with opener “Utopia,” an uptempo unplugged tune with plenty of solo space for the horn men and Ortiz, and “Plaza Real,” which benefits from a lovely melody—first voiced by Antoine’s tenor, then joined by the trumpeter—and a fusion-tinted rhythm section. The ’60s/’70s vibe also dominates the feel of John McLaughlin’s “Pacific Express.” Roney is entirely absent from the closer, “Revive,” a nearly three-minute unaccompanied piece by Bobby Ward, the revered Boston drummer who was pals with Tony Williams (and is heard on three of the album’s eight tracks). It’s a solo in which there is never a dull moment, which might also be said about all of Home.

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