HOTEP! So i wanted to share some of my own history wit ya’ll. My father, Robert “Baabe” Irving III is a jazz pianist, composer, artist, and was also a long running collaborator with the late Miles Davis.
The Miles Davis Collaboration
A native of Chicago, Irving was one of a group of young Chicago musicians who in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s formed the nucleus of Miles’ recording and touring bands. It was Irving’s composition “Space” (performed by him and his talented Chicago-based group) that captured Davis’ interest. That led to Miles inviting him and the Chicago musicians to New York in 1979 for his first recording sessions in several years. As it turned out, Irving’s music served as the impetus and motivation for the jazz great to resume his largely dormant (1974 to 1979) musical journey. Miles used the sound and direction as a catalyst to propel himself into the last phase of his life and career (1979 to 1991).
The fruits of these sessions were included on the 1981 album, The Man With the Horn, the first recording Davis had released in six years. The title track, “The Man With the Horn,” was written and arranged by Irving, who also co-wrote and arranged another track titled “Shout.” In 1983 Davis invited Irving to work as composer, keyboard player, arranger and co-producer for the sessions that resulted in the album Decoy. He also invited Irving to join his touring band, where he remained for five years, holding the keyboard chair and assuming the role of music director. In the latter role, Irving was responsible for musical arrangements, rehearsals (which Davis never attended) and musical liaison between Davis and group members that included jazz lions such as John Scofield, Bill Evans, Mike Stern, Kenny Garrett and Darryl Jones. In the musical director role, Irving listened to recordings of each night’s performance with Davis to cull spontaneous creative ideas that then became a permanent part of the group’s musical arrangements.
In addition to Decoy, Irving collaborated with Davis (as composer, producer and arranger) on the 1985 recording, You’re Under Arrest. The album included Grammy-nominated covers of “Time After Time” and “Human Nature.” While working on the material for You’re Under Arrest, Irving added to his arranging credentials by studying with Gil Evans, who decades earlier had arranged some of Davis’ most celebrated recordings. Later, Irving and Miles extended this musical direction on projects such as Irving’s film score for Street Smart, which starred Morgan Freeman in his first Oscar-nominated performance. Those sessions featured Miles Davis on trumpet.