Wallace Roney, a Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter celebrated for his interpretations of Miles Davis, has died aged 59 after contracting Covid-19.
He died in hospital in Paterson, New Jersey, where he had been admitted last week, according to his fiancee, Dawn Felice Jones.
Roney, born in 1960, trained at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Howard University and Berklee College of Music. After playing clubs in New York, he was invited into the storied hard bop band led by Art Blakey, the Jazz Messengers. He was then hired by Tony Williams, the drummer who had played alongside Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter in Miles Davis’s second great quintet, and recorded a number of albums with him during the 1980s. Roney also recorded 22 albums as leader in a post-bop or fusion style, beginning with 1987’s Verses.
Aged 23, he met his hero Miles Davis, after playing in an ensemble for a retrospective concert as Davis collected an honorary degree. Davis became his mentor, and Roney’s style would be frequently compared to Davis’s. “I never get tired of the comparisons to Miles – I get tired of the critics trying to make it into a negative,” he said last year
In 1991, he was hired to play in rehearsals for orchestral reworkings of Davis’s albums Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess, to be performed at that year’s Montreux jazz festival. He ended up being invited by Davis to perform alongside him in the concerts themselves. Davis died later that year – Roney would win a Grammy in 1994 for the album A Tribute to Miles, playing Davis’s parts alongside the remaining members of the quintet.
Over the years, he played alongside Ornette Coleman, Chick Corea, Elvin Jones, Pharoah Sanders and other jazz luminaries. In 2014, he premiered music composed by saxophonist Shorter during his time with Miles Davis’s quintet.
He is survived by two children from his marriage to late pianist Geri Allen, Barbara and Wallace Jr.