In the late '60s, Miles Davis went electric, embracing rock and funk -- a move that alienated the jazz orthodoxy while earning the American icon a new, younger audience.
Wallace Roney can probably relate. Graduating from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the '80s, the young trumpeter was hailed by some as Miles' successor. Others, meanwhile, dismissed him as a mere clone. Around 2000, however, Roney did the unthinkable, according to anti-electric purists: He started experimenting with modern R&B, hip-hop, and turntablism. But just like Miles, Roney never sold out. On his 2005 disc Mystikal, he juxtaposed the Temptations classic "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" with gems from bebop trailblazers Bud Powell and Kenny Dorham.
Roney takes the jazz tradition seriously, but he's no elitist snob. In fact, he was once slated to sit in with Prince's band.
"In the '20s and '30s, jazz was the popular music people danced to. That's what Prince today stands for, in a sense," says Roney.
Cool. But how'd it go with the Purple One?
"I laid down for a nap around 6 a.m., and I was so exhausted I didn't wake up until midnight!"
Better luck next time.
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