August 14, 2007

Ditch the elephant ear. There’s life outside the Fairgrounds

Wallace RoneyFriday, Aug. 17Wallace Roney hadn’t a clue as to what the master thought, and perhaps that was just as well. He thinks back to mid-’80s NYC, when his career — no, his education — took the unexpected turn of all turns. Columbia Records picked seven trumpeters, him included, to help celebrate Miles Davis’ honorary degrees from six universities and to promote the label’s upcoming retrospective on his career. A simple task, really: Walk on stage, play your ass off, don’t screw up. Roney didn’t, and afterward, friend and surrogate jazz titan Art Farmer caught him in the dressing room with an offer he couldn’t refuse. “Your man wants to meet you.”Gulp.“I was scared to death,” Roney admits.Cold feet weren’t an option. You don’t keep Miles waiting.The conversation was brief. “Miles said nice things to me, asked me what horn I was playing, and invited to me to his house the next day,” Roney said. “I waited until (noon) to call him. Because I was nervous, I didn’t want to call too early.”Bad manners? No danger of that. A friendship was born. “He was watching my development, and he was watching everybody else on the scene. He surmised who was playing and who wasn’t, and of the guys he had listened to … I was trying to do what he did, which was study all I could, play the best I could.”That’s Roney’s mantra, one he uses on his band now, night after night. It’s almost as if he hears Miles climbing into his head, and whispering: “You really want it, don’t you? Well, if you want like that, I got to give it to you.”Catch The Wallace Roney Sextet Friday at The Jazz Factory (815 W. Market St., 992-3242). Sets are at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and tickets are $20.Sunday, Aug. 19Brand New HeaviesN’Dea Davenport fled the way kids bolt the classroom for recess. Decisions, business and personal matters forced her split from the British acid jazz group Brand New Heavies. Sly Stone, anyone? Even she sees the link. “It’s funny, too, I just saw Sly Stone in Paris, like, a week ago,” Davenport said of funk’s famous recluse. “Some people have mixed comments, because he doesn’t stay on stage the entire time. For me, for him to show up, that’s like giving praise to the king of the throne.”Davenport moved to New Orleans and then Paris, where she recorded with mainly DJ producers. She bounced back stateside to New York and was living two blocks from the World Trade Center when the towers went down. “That absolutely changed my perspective on living,” she says.Two summers ago, Delicious Vinyl called and asked if she was interested in rejoining the Heavies. She didn’t hesitate. “I had some unfinished business,” she says. The rehearsals were a time warp. “It was like no time had passed. The funny thing, too, is that for the most part we all pretty much look the same.” The Heavies open for the raspy-throated diva Macy Gray, whose newest album Big covers everything from her split with her husband (“Finally Made Me Happy”) and, paradoxically, the hope of finding a new beau (“One”). Gray didn’t shy away from her personal trials on Big, keeping her focus where she says it has always been: the songs.“It’s not a painful thing,” she says, then backpedals. “Maybe it is, and I just don’t recognize it.” She amends her thoughts again. “The experience is painful, but once I get to the song, I’m just so focused on getting the song right that it didn’t turn out to be painful to me.”Studio time can’t be a total downer when you’ve got Black-Eyed Peas jokester/producer will.i.am, who remixed Gray’s last few records, running the show. “Even if I didn’t know him, I would’ve gone into the studio with him,” she says. Then, after a couple more questions, Gray hangs up abruptly. Sweetheart. Both soul sisters grace the Brown Theatre stage (315 W. Broadway, 584-7777) on Sunday. Showtime is 7 p.m., and tickets are $35-$55.Wednesday, Aug. 22Slaughter, Ky., has a fearless leader in Chris Knight. He says what he means, speaks plainly and only when he has to. Don’t buy it? Check Trailer Tapes. Worldly views and blue-collar anecdotes from a man who sees life in its most basic, uninhibited terms, Trailer was created over two or three days in 1996 and floated around among fans and friends until it finally got a proper re-introduction to the masses earlier this year.To this day, Knight says, “it’s not that great, I don’t guess, because it’s the first thing I ever did.” The New York Times disagreed, comparing it with Nebraska. Trailer’s main engineer, Frank Liddell, says it almost never saw a record store shelf, but he encouraged Knight to document these tracks, in his hometown, where he could be comfortable and free. “I thought his career as an artist was gonna change,” says Liddell, who met Knight in 1991 at a songwriter’s showcase in Nashville. “I thought his life was going to change, so I said, ‘You’re gonna move one day; let’s get this on tape before you’re gone.’”Knight’s solo acoustic show at Gerstle’s (3801 Frankfort Ave., 899-3609) starts at 9 p.m. next Wednesday. Cover is $10.Saturday, Aug. 18John Waite’s career has taken him through many evolutions, many bands and many haircuts. But the guy who fronted the Babys and later Bad English (ugh) always had a knack for balladry. Everybody who’s ever had their heart broken no doubt spun “Missing You” back when spinning meant records instead of iPod selection wheels. Waite’s stopping in at Border’s Books & Music at Fourth Street Live Saturday for a solo acoustic performance of tunes from his new album, Downtown … Journey of a Heart. He’s updated “Missing You” by adding Alison Krauss, and he covers Dylan’s “Highway 61.” Guess Waite knows a classic when he sees one. And if you’re nice, and know how to stand in line, he’ll sign discs, too. Wristbands are a must for an autograph meet-and-greet line and will be ready at Borders the day of the event when you buy the disc. See him smile at 7:30 p.m. Contact the writer at mherron@leoweekly.com