Skip to page content

Wallace Roney

About this Artist

Grammy-winner WALLACE RONEY was heralded as an "improviser who loves complicated almost mathematical lines and who performs with cat-like grace" by The New York Times. Trumpeter, composer, and bandleader Wallace Roney is one of the most exciting and innovative musicians on the creative music scene. His consummate artistry and eagerness to explore and transcend musical boundaries have led him to collaborate with Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Walter Davis Jr., Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Jay McShann, David Murray, and McCoy Tyner; as well as to be featured as a soloist with Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Curtis Fuller, Stevie Wonder, Randy Weston, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Dizzy Gillespie, to name a few.

Praised by Time magazine for his "amber tone and patient and considered phrasing," Wallace Roney has recorded over a dozen albums as a leader. Each recording illuminates the dynamic trumpeter's keen compositional chops and versatility as a bandleader and composer. Roney's most recent CD is the HighNote recording Mystikal. says, "Mystikal continues his path towards combining past and present with, most importantly, a clear eye on the future." He is also featured on Meshell Ndegéocello's Grammy-nominated Dance of the Infidel.

Wallace Roney has earned the admiration and respect of his colleagues and elders since age 16, when he walked into a NYC nightclub and sat in while his high school was in NYC on a field trip. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 25, 1960. By the age of five, he had picked up his first trumpet; at seven, his father bought him his first horn. His grandmother made sure that he had lessons. Diagnosed as having perfect pitch, Roney began studying with the Philadelphia Orchestra's 30-year veteran trumpeter Sigmund Hering at 12. At the recommendation of Hering and Leopold Stokowski, Wallace performed with the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble at the Philadelphia Settlement Music School. In the early 1970s he moved with his father and siblings to Washington, D.C., where he was enrolled in the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts. He developed a love for Miles Davis, wearing out his 45rpm record of Filles de Kilimanjaro and practicing the master's solos while still in his teens. Upon graduation, Roney declined an opportunity to attend the prestigious Juilliard School, choosing Howard University instead.

In 1979 he joined pianist Abdullah Ibrahim's big band for a summer European tour; he toured Europe again in 1980, with Art Blakey. He returned to Boston in 1981, attending the Berklee School of Music until he read in the Village Voice that Marsalis was leaving Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Roney wanted his position. He knew the Messengers would be playing a stint at the Bottom Line in New York City, so for Roney there was only one thing to do: sell everything. "My television, my comic books, school books, my trumpet," he told James McBride of the Washington Post. "I had to get to New York that day." While he did get a job touring with Blakey for a few months, followed by a year-long job with Chico Freeman, Roney also spent years scrounging for work.

Roney recorded his debut, Verses, for Muse in 1987. He also became a central part of the Tony Williams Quintet, touring and recording with the group until it broke up in the early '90s. For Roney, 1991 and 1992 proved to be watershed years. First, he received an invitation from Miles Davis to play at his side during the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival. "I was soloing on 'Springsville'," Roney told Zan Stewart of the Los Angeles Times, "and after I finished, he [Davis] tapped me on the arm and said, 'Play this tomorrow on the gig.' " The music was later issued as Miles and Quincy, Live at Montreux, won a Grammy award, and let the jazz world know that Roney had arrived. It led to an invitation to tour with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams in the Miles Davis Tribute Band in 1992 and to his involvement in a recreation of the "Re-Birth of the Cool" with Gerry Mulligan. Following Miles' passing, Roney toured with the original members of Miles Davis' famed quintet; Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams. In 2006, Hancock, the Davis family, and VH-1 invited Roney to celebrate Miles induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during an internationally televised event.

In 1994 Roney received a multiple album contract from Warner Bros. Misterios, his debut for the label, found him stretching boundaries by including Brazilian rhythms and strings. He maintained a busy touring schedule, playing dates at the Village Vanguard in New York, Scullers in Boston, and the Jazz Showcase in Chicago. He also traveled to Italy, France, and Portugal for a number of summer festivals. Between recording dates and touring he found time to marry his longtime musical partner, pianist Geri Allen, on May 12, 1995. On 1997's Village, and even more so on 2000's No Room for Argument, Roney led the new revolution of jazz/bop/urban mix incorporating ideas from late-'60s fusion. These albums include synthesizers and electric pianos along with saxophone, piano, and trumpet, creating a spacious and layered sound. "We are trying to play in a way that will open up the music," he told Roberta Penn of the Seattle Post Intelligencer concerning his current experiments. Roney's musical presentations from Prototype - the title of which is from the song by Outcast's Andre 3000 - to Mystikal show his continued progression. His willingness to push boundaries and surround himself with the best contemporary jazz musicians guarantees that Wallace Roney will continue to be a fresh and vital artist. Wallace Roney currently maintains a busy schedule touring the world with his sextet.

For the Record . . .

Wallace Roney holds the distinction of being the only trumpet player Davis ever personally mentored.


2006 - Benny Golson Jazz Master Award

1996 - Grammy Award

1991 - Grammy Award

1990 - Down Beat Critic's Poll for Best Trumpeter to Watch, 1990

1979 - Named Best Young Jazz Musician of the Year by Down Beat