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Roney took lessons from Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie and studied with Miles Davis from 1985 until the latter's death in 1991. Wallace credits Davis as having helped to challenge and shape his creative approach to life as well as being his music instructor, mentor and friend; indeed he holds the distinction of being the only trumpet player Davis ever personally mentored.
Roney was born in Philadelphia and attended Howard University  and Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, after graduating from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts of the D. C. Public Schools , where he studied trumpet with Langston Fitzgerald of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Found to have perfect pitch at the age of four, Wallace began his musical and trumpet studies at Philadelphia's Settlement School of Music. He studied with trumpeter Sigmund Hering of the Philadelphia Orchestra for three years. Hering regularly presented Wallace at recitals at the Settlement School, and with the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble, during his studies as a youth in Philadelphia.
When he entered the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Wallace Roney had already made his recording debut at age 15 with Nation and Haki Mahbuti, and at that time met, among others, Bill Hardman, Valery Ponomarev, Woody Shaw (who befriended him), Johnny Coles and Freddie Hubbard. He played with the Cedar Walton Quartet featuring Billy Higgins and Sam Jones and Philly Joe Jones at 16 years of age with the encouragement of his high school teacher, bassist Mickey Bass. Wallace had attained distinction as a gifted local performer in the Washington, D.C area. In 1979 and 1980, Roney won the Down Beat Award for Best Young Jazz Musician of the Year, and in 1989 and 1990, he won Down Beat Magazine's Critic's Poll for Best Trumpeter to Watch.
Despite all his skills and early accomplishments, Roney spent years scrounging for work. Early in his career in the '80s, he was at one point homeless; he lived frugally, sleeping on the floors of friends' apartments and generally "wearing out my welcome", as he recalled to Washington Post writer James McBride. In 1983 his future began to look brighter—at least temporarily. While taking part in a tribute to Miles Davis at the Bottom Line in Manhattan, he actually got to meet his idol. "He [Davis] asked me what kind of trumpet I had," Roney told Time magazine, "and I told him none. So he gave me one of his." Throughout two dismal years, 1984 and 1985, he was forced to play in Latin dance and reception bands, as the New York clubs, once a prominent part of the jazz scene, had mostly disappeared. But in 1986, he received a pair of calls, in the same month, to tour with drummers Tony Williams and Art Blakey, after which Roney has been one of the most in-demand trumpet players on the professional circuit.
In 1986, he succeeded Terence Blanchard in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was an integral part of Tony Williams's quintet. In 1991, Roney played with Miles Davis at the Montreux Jazz Festival. After Davis's death that year, Roney toured in memoriam with Davis alumni Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Williams and recorded an album, A Tribute to Miles, for which they won a Grammy Award. He has been an integral part of bands with Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Walter Davis Jr., Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Jay McShann, David Murray and McCoy Tyner, as well as a featured soloist with Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Curtis Fuller, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Dizzy Gillespie.
Roney's story is unique among musicians of his generation, because he learned his craft directly from Miles Davis. In fact, Davis' influence on Roney was so profound that Roney is capable of a pitch-perfect imitation of Davis that fools even the most knowledgeable jazz listeners. However, critics have also taken Roney to task for sounding too similar to his idol. Wrote critic Ron Wynn,
"[Roney's] trumpet tone, timbre, approach, phrasing, and sound so closely mirror that of Miles Davis in his pre-jazz/rock phase that he's been savaged in many places for being a clone and unrepentant imitator... It's a classic no-win situation; he does sound tremendously like Davis and can't be completely absolved from critical charges of imitation. But he's also a fine, evocative player on ballads and can be fiery and explosive on up-tempo tunes."
Roney recorded his debut album as a leader, Verses, on Muse Records in 1987. A number of albums on Muse, Warner Bros. Records and Concord Records/Stretch Records followed, and by the time he turned 40 in 2000 Roney had been documented on over 250 audio recordings. His two most recent albums are Mystikal (2005) and Jazz (2007), on HighNote Records.
Wallace Roney is the son of Wallace Roney, U.S. Marshal and President of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 102, grandson of Philadelphia musician Roosevelt Sherman, and older brother of tenor and soprano saxophonist Antoine Roney.
2001 - The Visit - Jordan Walker-Perlman - music arrangement
1996 - Love Jones - music arrangement
- 1987 – Verses with Gary Thomas, Mulgrew Miller, Charnett Moffett, Tony Williams
- 1988 – Intuition with Gary Thomas, Kenny Garrett, Mulgrew Miller, Ron Carter, Cindy Blackman
- 1989 – The Standard Bearer with Gary Thomas, Mulgrew Miller, Charnett Moffett, Cindy Blackman, Steve Berrios
- 1991 – What's New with Marc Cohen, Charnett Moffett, Cindy Blackman, 1989
- 1990 – Obsession with Gary Thomas, Donald Brown, Christian McBride, Cindy Blackman
- 1991 – Seth Air with Antoine Roney, Jacky Terrasson, Peter Washington, Eric Allen
- 1993 – Munchin' with Ravi Coltrane, Geri Allen, Christian McBride, Kenny Washington
- 1993 – Crunchin' with Antonio Hart, Geri Allen, Ron Carter, Kenny Washington
- 1994 – Misterios with Antoine Roney, Ravi Coltrane, Geri Allen, Clarence Seay, Eric Allen, Steve Berrios, Steve Thornton, Valtinho Anastacio, Gil Goldstein
- 1995 – Wallace Roney Quintet with Antoine Roney, Carlos McKinney, Clarence Seay, Eric Allen
- 1996 – Village with Antoine Roney, Chick Corea, Geri Allen, Clarence Seay, Lenny White, Michael Brecker, Pharoah Sanders, Robert Irving III, Steve Berrios
- 2003 - No Job Too Big or Small with Eric Allen, Geri Allen, Cindy Blackman, Donald Brown, Ron Carter, many others
- 2001 – No Room for Argument with Geri Allen, Adam Holzman, Antoine Roney, Lenny White, Buster Williams, Steve Hall
- 2004 – Prototype with Antoine Roney, Don Byron, Clifton Anderson, Geri Allen, Adam Holzman, Matt Garrison, Eric Allen, DJ Logic
- 2005 – Mystikal with Antoine Roney, Geri Allen, Adam Holzman, Matt Garrison, Eric Allen, Bobby Thomas, Val Jeanty
- 2007 – Jazz
- 2010 – If Only for One Night
- 2012 – Home
With Geri Allen
- Maroons (Blue Note, 1992)
- Eyes in the Back of Your Head (Blue Note, 1997)
- The Gathering (Verve, 1998)
- Timeless Portraits and Dreams (Telarc, 2006)
With Art Blakey
With Kenny Barron
With Chick Corea
- Remembering Bud Powell (Concord, 1997)
With Dizzy Gillespie
- To Diz with Love (Telarc, 1992)
- Superblue 2 (1989, Blue Note)
With Tony Williams
- Civilization (1986, Blue Note)