The excellent trumpeter Wallace Roney has frequently expressed his annoyance with comparisons to the late Miles Davis, but his complaints don’t really wash: Roney has spent too much of his career suggesting such comparisons–and in ways that go beyond his stylistic homage to Davis’s long-lined phrasing, clipped articulation, and plangent melodic instincts. After all, it was Roney who appeared onstage with Miles–and played many passages in his stead–at Davis’s semiofficial farewell concert (captured on the album Miles and Quincy: Live at Montreux). It was Roney whose first album for his first high-profile label offered a telling homage to the classic Davis albums Sketches of Spain and Quiet Nights. And the titles of some earlier Roney recordings–Crunchin’ and Munchin’–refer directly to such mid-50s Davis albums as Workin’ and Steamin’. None of which bothers me especially: the Davis legacy, from the crackling cool of his 50s bands to the intuitive elegance of his 60s quintet with Wayne Shorter, deserves more exploration, and so does the much-maligned Davis trumpet technique, with its multitude of tonal shadings and its proud idiosyncrasies. In terms of extending Miles, no one comes close to Roney, and his recorded quintet (starring his saxophonist brother Antoine) cuts a fine figure of a band. In Chicago though, Roney has unveiled a new sextet that recalls the shape and size of the extraordinary bands Miles led in the late 50s. Roney’s artistic success depends to a large extent on a double-edged relationship with his mentor: he accomplishes the most when he can echo the spirit of Davis’s music without mimicking it to the letter. He does this on a regular enough basis to remain an impressive figure–and to let us hope that he might one day move as far from Miles’s shadow as he claims to have already done. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 670-2473. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/William Claxton.