Wallace Roney, the famed jazz trumpeter who was well-known as a rare protege of Miles Davis, has died due to complications arising from the COVID-19 virus. He was 59.
“I am saddened to confirm that the iconic trumpeter and jazz legend Wallace Roney passed away due to complications of COVID-19 this morning just before noon,” publicist Lydia Liebman wrote in a media release on Tuesday.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Roney earned the admiration of his jazz elders when he was still in his teens. He took lessons from Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie and then studied and worked alongside Davis from 1985 until his mentor’s death in 1991. That relationship is said to have had not only an immense influence on Roney’s playing style, but also his general approach to life itself.
During that same period, Roney took over Terence Blanchard’s former role as the trumpeter with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and he also became an integral part of Tony Williams’s band. After Davis’s death, he teamed up with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams and recorded the Grammy-winning album A Tribute to Miles.
“If you want to know how impressively trumpeter Wallace Roney carried on the tradition of Miles Davis, just consider what it meant to play the horn in this particular band,” author Ted Gioia tweeted, referring to A Tribute to Miles. “He was one of our finest.”
Roney made his debut as a bandleader with the 1987 album Verses, released by Muse Records. Over the course of his career, he recorded 21 albums of his own with Muse, Warner Bros. and Highnote, and served as a sideman on countless albums, including recordings by Chick Corea, Joey DeFrancesco, Dizzy Gillespie and Kenny Barron.
Many in the jazz community have publicly paid their respects to the late Roney.
“This thing has no limits. Can’t believe another brother has fallen to this virus,” Blanchard wrote on Instagram.
“Our collective spirits are taking some serious blows these days. Saying goodbye to one of my beloved big brothers is especially hard. May the great Wallace Roney RIP,” prominent bassist Christian McBride posted on his Twitter account.
“I am at a loss for words,” said pianist Danilo Pérez.
Roney was once married to the late pianist Geri Allen, with whom he had two daughters and a son.
Liebman said Roney’s family is looking to hold a memorial service “once this pandemic has passed.”