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JAZZ REVIEW

Wallace Roney sextet focuses on solo turns

With interaction at a minimum, members fill up their own space.

October 20, 2005|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

THE presence of DJ Val on stage Tuesday at the Jazz Bakery with trumpeter Wallace Roney's sextet let the audience know right away that the ensemble probably was going to move beyond mainstream jazz territory.

That's precisely what happened. In the first set's opening number (no titles were announced), the solo spotlight was immediately turned on Val, strongly supported by the dynamic drumming of Ralph Penland, while Roney and his brother, saxophonist Antoine, left the stage (as they frequently did throughout the set).

But the true contemporary aspects of the music traced beyond turntables and synthesizers to a broader conceptualization of 21st century jazz, in which each lengthy piece was a virtual platform for unfettered soloing, with ensemble passages serving primarily as bridging and connective links.

That meant plenty of space for the Roney brothers to stretch out improvisationally. Wallace was particularly impressive, spinning through the faster numbers with explosive streams of notes, and engaging the evening's sole ballad number with affecting lyricism.

Antoine, playing tenor and soprano saxophones, was both foil and companion, sometimes matching his brother's swift excursions, sometimes taking off on his own exploratory pathways. Each of the other players was allocated room for invention, with keyboardist Robert Irving roving from synthesizer simulations of rock guitars to moments when he engaged acoustic harmonies and bassist Clarence Seay.

This emphasis on solo efforts, surrounded by constantly surging waves of rhythmic sound, delivered with little sense of interactive musical intimacy, positioned the Roney sextet as a metaphor for a society filled with unfocused energy and information -- one in which individuals often seem more responsive to the rich complexity of their milieu than to one another.

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Wallace Roney Sextet

Where: Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., Culver City

When: 8 and 9:30 tonight through Sunday

Price: $25

Info: (310) 271-9039

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