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Wed, 05.25.1960

Wallace Roney Jr., Musician born

Wallace Roney Jr.

*Wallace Roney Jr. was born on this date in 1960.  He was a Black jazz (hard bop and post-bop) trumpeter.  

Wallace Roney Jr. was born in Philadelphia.  He was the son of Wallace Roney, U.S. Marshal and President of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 102, grandson of Philadelphia musician Roosevelt Sherman, and older brother of tenor and soprano saxophonist Antoine Roney.  

Found to have perfect pitch at four, he began his musical and trumpet studies at Philadelphia's Settlement School of Music.  He studied with trumpeter Sigmund Hering of the Philadelphia Orchestra for three years, who regularly presented Wallace at recitals at the Settlement School, and with the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble, during his studies in Philadelphia.  When he entered the Duke Ellington School, Roney had already made his recording debut at age 15 with Nation and met, among others, Bill Hardman, Valery Ponomarev, Woody Shaw, Johnny Coles, and Freddie Hubbard.  

He studied trumpet with Langston Fitzgerald of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.  He played with the Cedar Walton Quartet at 16 years of age with the encouragement of his high school teacher.  He attended Howard University and Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.  Roney attained distinction as a gifted local performer in Washington, D.C. In 1979 and 1980, Roney won the DownBeat Award for Best Young Jazz Musician of the Year, and in 1989 and 1990, the DownBeat Magazine's Critic's Poll for Best Trumpeter to Watch.  

In 1983, he met his idol while taking part in a tribute to Miles Davis at "The Bottom Line" in Manhattan. "He [Davis] asked me what kind of trumpet I had," Roney told Time magazine, "and I told him none. So, he gave me one of his."  Roney took lessons from Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie and studied with Miles Davis from 1985 until the latter died in 1991. Wallace credited Davis as having helped to challenge and shape his creative approach to life and being his music instructor, mentor, and friend; he was the only trumpet player Davis personally mentored.  

In 1986, he toured with drummers Tony Williams and Art Blakey, after which he succeeded Terence Blanchard in Blakey's Jazz Messengers.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was integral to Williams's quintet. In 1991, Roney played with Davis at the Montreux Jazz Festival. After Davis's death that year, Roney toured in memoriam with Davis alumni Wayne ShorterHerbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Williams and recorded an album, A Tribute to Miles, for which they won a Grammy Award.  He recorded his debut album as a leader, Verses, on Muse Records in 1987, and by the time he turned 40 in 2000, Roney had been documented on over 250 audio recordings.  

Earlier in his life, Roney had been a Montclair, New Jersey, resident.  In 1995, Roney married pianist Geri Allen, with whom he had two daughters and a son.  The marriage ended before Allen's death in 2017. The two artists collaborated on records on many occasions during the 1990s and 2000s, on records released under each artist's name.   His album titles from the 2000s include Mystikal (2005) and Jazz (2007). His two most recent albums were A Place in Time (2016) and Blue Dawn - Blue Nights (2019), which featured his nephew, drummer Kojo Roney.  

Wallace Roney Jr. died at 59 on March 31, 2020, at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey. The cause was complications arising from COVID-19.  In a statement, Roney’s collaborator, pianist Herbie Hancock said, “that even though his “journey has ended in this lifetime … his impact lives on.”  “He carved out his own voice on the trumpet even with the initial strong influence from Miles Davis.”  

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