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JAZZ REVIEW : Wallace Roney’s Many Gifts Shine in an Unfocused Set

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Wallace Roney’s opening set at Catalina Bar & Grill Wednesday night was a testimony to the value of sheer talent.

The much-praised trumpeter started late and started slow, and tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, his partner in the front line, didn’t make it on stage until halfway through the first number. The result was an unfocused program, off-center here and disconnected there, a familiar example of the hazards of an opening night in a new venue.

Despite these problems, Roney’s performance was one of the most fascinating of the summer jazz season. In solo after solo, he persistently placed great creative demands upon himself, spinning out brilliantly articulate lines that often skimmed the outer limits of the harmonies, sometimes abandoned them completely.

Stepping out of the Miles Davis shadow that occasionally has obscured the high quality of his work, his only flaw was an intermittent tendency toward improvisational verbosity, toward filling every available space with as many notes as possible. But his better work made a convincing case for Roney as one of the most important jazz trumpeters of the ‘90s.

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His band was first-rate. Coltrane is still in the process of finding his own voice, an understandably difficult task, given his father’s legendary status. He wisely has incorporated other influences-- especially apparent in an impressive series of blues choruses--into what is, at the moment, an eclectic but promising style.

Pianist Gerri Allen, always impressive, was no less so in her few solos. At one point, during the standard “If I Should Lose You,” it was her superbly controlled, briskly swinging improvisation that finally began to bring the group into musical sync.

Bassist Clarence Seay and drummer Eric Allen provided solid support, with Allen adding substance and dynamics to an aggressive manner that, in a lesser player’s hands, might easily have deteriorated into unrewarding bashing.

* The Wallace Roney Quintet at Catalina Bar & Grill, 1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, (213) 466-2210. $12 tonight and Sunday; $15 Friday and Saturday . The quintet plays at 8:30 and 10:30, through Sunday.

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