Jazz Trumpeter Wallace Roney Dies of Coronavirus Complications at 59: 'His Time Here Was Well Spent'
The musician was the protégé of the legendary Miles Davis
Jazz trumpeter Wallace Roney has died of complications from the novel coronavirus, PEOPLE confirms. He was 59.
The legendary musician — and protégé of the late Miles Davis — died around noon Tuesday at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, says his publicist, Lydia Liebman. She confirmed Roney had underlying health conditions.
In a statement, Roney’s collaborator, pianist Herbie Hancock, tells PEOPLE 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,” Hancock says.
While on the “Miles Davis Retrospective” tour with Roney in the year following Miles’ death in 1991, Hancock says he, along with band members Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter and Tony Carter, saw “the inventive and inspirational style” side of him.
“At that time his attachment to Miles was quite understandable and expected if you consider the purpose of the tour, his birthday being the same as Miles, and both played the trumpet,” Hancock says. “It was a tour proudly remembered by all of us. Wallace had such fire in his playing as he attacked the aggressive tunes but was as gentle as a lamb on ballads. His sound was rock solid.”
“On tour with Wallace in the late ’90s revealed new aspects of his advancement and expansion that defined his own space in the musical spectrum,” he continues. “What he conjured up was always new, unexpected and, therefore, provocative. We had a ball on that tour and continued to explore beyond boundaries.”
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Roney — born on May 25, 1960 in Philadelphia — won a Grammy in 1994 in the best jazz instrumental performance category for his participation in “A Tribute to Miles,” filling the trumpet chair alongside Hancock, Williams, Shorter and Carter. (He earned a second Grammy nomination in 1997.)
“We’ll all miss him in our own respective ways with deep love and admiration,” Hancock says. “His time here was well spent contributing to the present and future of jazz through his influence on the next generation of musicians.”
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Roney’s close friendship with Davis dates back to 1983, when Davis was struck by his performance at a tribute concert at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall and afterwards invited him to his home in Manhattan the next day. Their years-long friendship culminated in a performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1991, just months before Davis’ death.
“A lot of people like to say, ‘Yeah, well, I hung with Miles, but we never talked about music,’” Roney said in a 2016 interview. “Well, guess what? I did. I loved him because of his music, and he talked to me about music all the time. You definitely had to earn Miles Davis’s respect, and not everybody could do that.”
Roney is survived by his partner, Dawn Felice Jones, and his two children: son Wallace Jr. and daughter Barbara from his previous marriage to pianist Geri Allen.
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