In the 80s, when the neoclassicists commandeered jazz, many young musicians began to emulate their 60s predecessors. Wallace Roney internalized the style of Miles Davis so fully that at Davis’s last recorded performance–the disastrous 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival concert, when he could barely play more than a few minutes at a time–Roney was called upon to fill in the blanks left by his idol. Roney has since proved even more mercurial than Davis. He has made some terrific recordings and he has made some poor ones, and on his last trip to Chicago, as part of Chick Corea’s tribute to Bud Powell, he offered wooden, dour counterpoint to the fireworks surrounding him. Which Wallace Roney will show up here? I’ll wager on the smart, lithe soloist who first attracted attention with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1986. He’s bringing a ridiculously talented band that should do its best to keep the leader’s feet to the fire. The quintet includes young bassist Clarence Seay, pianist Donald Brown (who played with Roney in the Messengers), and two musicians a generation older than Roney: saxist Gary Bartz and drummer Lenny White, both veterans of Davis’s electric bands. White helped create the insurrectionist rhythms on Bitches Brew, but in the last 15 years he’s gone back to the music’s roots, applying fusion’s energy to the mainstream music that preceded it. Bartz has done much the same, reviving a career that had almost blinked out in the 80s. Now teaching in Cincinnati (and appearing relatively often in Chicago as part of Malachi Thompson’s Freebop Band), Bartz has a gritty, soulful sound, and his playing reflects recent jazz history when he improvises, tracing the funky 60s and the electrified 70s but also taking into account the reassessment of the music’s past that took hold in the 80s. Tuesday through Thursday, October 15 through 17, 8 and 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, October 18 and 19, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, October 20, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.