Wallace Roney celebrates Bitches Brew’s 40th, with some Mwandishi spice

This past month (July 2011), trumpeter Wallace Roney headlined a week-long tour titled “Bitches Brew and Beyond.” With stops in France, Sweden, “and beyond” (aka elsewhere in Europe), the goal of the shows was not to reproduce the original recording. Instead, it was to mark its 40th anniversary by taking a new look at a broad swath of Miles’ repertoire from that and Miles’s subsequent era.

The band lived up to its “All-Star” billing, as it was advertised in Europe, by including Wallace Roney on trumpet, Antoine Roney on tenor and soprano sax, Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet and alto sax, Robert Irving on piano, Doug Carn on organ, Foley on guitar, Buster Williams on bass, Al Foster on drums, Shakur Sanders on percussion, and DJ Logic on electronic percussion. Several of the players participated in Miles’ bands and sessions during the late 60s-early 70s and 1980s through the end of his life.

Most relevant to this blog is the inclusion of two former members of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band, bassist Buster Williams (who played with Miles in 1967 and provided not only grounding but creative and ever changing propellant for the Mwandishi band) and reed player Bennie Maupin (whose haunting bass clarinet shaped equally the character of ‘Bitches Brew’ and Mwandishi band tunes like ‘Ostinato’). This was yet another of what has been a periodic coming together in recent years of two or three band members. Also relevant is that on this tour, the “and Beyond” band reached into the Mwandishi repertoire to play Herbie Hancock’s beautiful ballad ‘You’ll Know When You Get There’. While I’ve personally been periodically playing tunes from that repertoire, I haven’t been aware of others doing so – and the news reaches me with delight.

Wallace Roney tells me that the shows went really well, but were unfortunately unrecorded. He is hoping to find future opportunities to play shows like these. My own hope is that he’ll include not only Mwandishi members but also repertoire. I wouldn’t be surprised since he thinks of that band as having been one of the most influential on his own musicianship from the time he was twelve years old. I’m obviously sympathetic to that view, having seen the precursor Herbie Hancock Sextet during its transition into the Mwandishi band when I was fifteen, and continuing to listen to the core recordings while in college. As readers of this blog – and this coming year, the book – I share Wallace’s sense of the band’s importance when I look at what helped shape my own musical work. It would be a pleasure to hear “and Beyond” play some of this music, along with Miles’ electric repertoire, in the States sooner than later!

An additional Miles-Mwandishi connection unfolds tomorrow (August 4, 2011) at Stanford University, when Roney’s celebrations of that music continues tomorrow when he is joined by Miles’ drummer Ndugu Leon Chancler (who was the second drummer on the recording of ‘Ostinato’ and who subbed for Jabali Billy Hart, at a show in California in August 1970).

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~ by bobgluck on August 3, 2011.

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