The Latest Sonic Portraits Jazz Release:
Romantic Classical/Jazz Fusion: Music Creation of Lolo Irving
by Rahsaan Clark Morris
Reprinted from the July 2016 Issue of
Lolo Irving is a musician, composer, producer, student, and a musical collaborator. She has combined all of these skills to come up with a very intriguing CD project entitled “No Limit” (Sonic Portrait Jazz label) – her second release on the newly formed label after the re-issue of a remastered effort from 2001 entitled “Divine” – which made its debut at Promontory in Hyde Park on an evening in June with a very unique presentation. Describing the music on the disc as a fusion of Romantic Classical and Jazz, it actually is so much more. In conversation with Ms. Irving, her main goal with this project was to meld the disparate elements and styles that she had either grown up with – reggae, soul, pop, and electronic music – or picked up in her extensive studies of piano and alto saxophone over the years. She had noticed certain camps of thought had developed, almost inevitably, around the styles of classical, Jazz and pop and, in her words, “I was ready to move [forward] on a lot of fronts”.
Photos by Burrell Sunrise(L-R) Robert Irving III (Director Sonic Portraits Jazz label), Joel Hall (Dance Company Artist Director),Diane Chandler Marshall (Educational Director Jazz Institute Chicago/Event Producer),Laura Walls (Associate Production Manager), Lolo Irving (Creative Director/Executive Producer) Chuck Przybyl (Video Director of Photography), Edyta Stepien (Video Director/Editor)
The best artists are always uncomfortable with rigid categories, especially in music, because of all the influences they are exposed to. In Lolo’s case, that exposure came about thru her cultural upbringing in Paris, as was pointed out, and her musical education at Schola Cantorum and later, studies at the Sorbonne where she earned her Master’s Degree. Early on Lolo was exposed to the music of Erik Satie which piqued her interest in Classical music. Thru her studies, she was then exposed to some of the other artists whose compositions she has adapted, such as Vincenzo Bellini, Chopin, and Alexander Scriabin. The impulse to specifically merge Jazz and classical music is not new. Back in the late ‘50’s, musicians such as pianists John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Dave Brubeck, experimented with what they called the Third Stream, an early realization of classical and Jazz fusion. What makes Lolo’s work so interesting is her taking the fusion even further with her use of electronics, beats, and vocal effects on the classical tracks such as “Red Gnossienne” based on Gnossienne No.1 by Satie and “Purple Etude”, an adaptation of Scriabin’s Etude in D-Sharp Minor. In conjunction with “Purple Etude”, I mentioned early on that the CD’s debut was accompanied by a unique presentation. A new video of the piece was screened and its film noir-ish aspect and languid musical approach gave it a hip “Last Tango in Paris” feel.
The other tracks on the CD were played over the house sound system, which to this listener had Lolo’s alto mixed almost too prominently, taking away some of the power of the production effects. But, what made up for the audio gaffe was the visual accompaniment of the Joel Hall Dancers, who danced to the tracks in a very modernist, romantic fashion befitting the genre. The dance was especially effective during the disco-adapted “Adagio Indigo” an imaginative re-interpretation of an Adagio by the 18th century opera composer Tomaso Albinoni. The dance also brought in an element of sexy flesh-and-blood humanism to the presentation since the music was performed ala sound files.
Joel Hall Dancers
The final surprise of the work by Ms. Irving is her fusion of other music’s with electronic elements, played on the alto. For instance, she takes a regular pop track, “Bachelorette”, by the Avant – rock artist Bjork and re-sets it as a reggae groove, which was then recreated in dance by a duet of Joel Hall dancers. Lolo then takes a classic-pun intended- reggae hit, Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain”, and programs beats to make it a regular pop tune.
And finally, perhaps the most interesting take of all is Lolo’s immersion in producer Eric Sedji’s gauzy landscape that is Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” (which track, by the way, includes her husband Robert Irving III on very effective Fender Rhodes). Using Echoplex-like repetition of lines from the melody, Sedji and Lolo craft a new yet still bluesy rendition of the Ellington standard.
Photo by Tony Carpenter: Lolo Irving & Robert Irving III
Credit must also be given to the two other main track producers on the project, Guillaume Hauquin and David Comsel, who managed to craft settings that were consistent in mood and audio level to fit the thematic intent of Lolo’s project. After all of the genre crossing on the date, the only thing left to say is, No Limit indeed.
Rahsaan Clark Morris
June 21, 2016
Get The New Album NO LIMIT on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/no-…
Amazon Music: https://www.amazon.com/No-Limit-Lolo-…
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/search?…
CD Baby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/loloirving
More music by Lolo Irving:
Also Recently released on SPJ is the prior masterpiece by Lolo Irving, “Divine” (Remastered)
available as a Digital Download Only:
The Critically Acclaimed Robert Irving III Generations Debut CD:
5 of 10 tracks from the CD:
Jazz Week Chart Movement: 10/19 #297, 10/26, #292, 11/2 #155, 11/9 #106, 11/16 #87, 11/23 #87, 11/30 #88, 12/7 #88, 12/14 #79, 12/21 #73 1/11 #63
CMJ Top 40 Jazz Chart Entry at #30 this week!
DownBeat Magazine- February 2016
by Howard Mandel (President of The Jazz Journalist Association)
Our Space In Time addresses such themes as the links between artist past and present, the balance of legacy and innovation, the significance of our current moment and the process of moving ahead. Robert Irving III, an under-promoted Chicago-based pianist and composer, has created a suite-like album that explores these concepts in progressive yet accessible contemporary jazz.
As a member of Miles Davis’ 1981 comeback band and later Davis’ music director, Irving rode a post-fusion wave when it was being supplanted by the Marsalis-led revival of hard-bop. Here he resurrects an alternative strategy that Wayne Shorter proposed in albums like Atlantis and High Life: tightly knit, complex charts for small ensembles that are flexible enough to couch striking personal statements but catchy enough to comfort audiences with an identifiable thread.
Irving writes close parallels for his three capable horn players and directs the rhythm section’s approach, leaving openings for his deft, light-fingered pianism. “Poznan Dream’” evokes an airy wistfulness that recurs later in the ballad “Octobre”. Scott Hesse’s guitar skitters through the saxophones on “Generations” and is generously featured on “Maat.” “Energy,” suggestive of McCoy Tyner, packs punches with Laurence d’Estival Irving’s fervent saxophone wail.
The band’s response to the issues raised by its leader is to play together, in the moment.
— Howard Mandel
Chicago Tribune CD Review 9/2/15
Robert Irving III Generations “Our Space in Time”
by Howard Reich
Robert Irving III explores radically different musical terrain in “Our Space in Time” (Sonic Portraits Jazz), his tenure as music director for Miles Davis from 1979 to 1988 reflected in the open-eared, open-minded, forward-looking nature of this venture. A heady, trippy foray into sonic experimentation, the album merges acoustic and electric instrumentation, avant-garde and pop-tinged idioms, splashes of color, hypnotic riffs, ethereal vocals and a great deal more.
No, this is not the sort of thing you would have heard in the London House in Novak’s day, but it offers a joyously freewheeling, genre-mixing spirit that proves difficult to resist. By turns gnarly and tuneful, rambunctious and meditative, “Our Space in Time” extends to septet the ebullient spirit that listeners associate with Irving’s pianism.
Part of the anything-goes nature of the venture surely owes to the multigenerational staffing of Irving’s band, aptly titled Generations. In effect, if Irving once was the up-and-coming player following trumpet icon Davis’ lead, now the pianist serves as the mentor, drawing as much energy and inspiration from his proteges as Davis surely did from him. Bringing Irving’s vision to life are alto saxophonist Laurence d’Estival Irving (the pianist’s wife), guitarist Scott Hesse, saxophonists Rajiv Halim and Irvin Pierce, bassist-vocalist Emma Dayhuff and drummer Charles “Rick” Heath.
Irving’s poetic philosophizing on a few tracks may seem a bit loopy to some, but not to anyone who has traveled in the orbit of Sun Ra, the jazz visionary whose “space is the place” mantra clearly has cast a spell on Irving. And though it takes too many tracks before Irving and the Generations calm down a bit, when they finally do, on “Octobre,” they’ve arrived at one of Irving’s mostly beautifully crafted ballads.
All of which goes to show that, in Chicago, buoyant new music rises up at all times of year, including when you least expect it.
Published Wednesday December 2, 2015 © Chicago Tribune
Robert Irving III, known as the longest collaborating composer, producer, pianist and musical director for the legendary Miles Davis bands of the 1980’s, releases his third album as a band-leader, entitled, “Our Space In Time” on the newly re-branded Sonic Portraits Jazz imprint. “The brilliant idea of my wife, Lolo Irving to create a band with my young mentees from the Jazz Institute mentoring program, espouses the notion of an ancient future as we jazz musicians look back to find inspiration to move forward,” states Irving. In 2014 as Irving planned his annual Miles Davis birthday commemoration performance in Chicago, his wife Lolo Irving, implored him, “Just as Dizzy mentored Miles and Miles mentored you, likewise, you must start utilizing the young musicians you’ve been mentoring, to make them a part of your live performance groups.”
As a benefactor of early childhood music education and mentoring by master musicians like Gil Evans, Irving became a strong proponent of the same for burgeoning young musicians. During the summer of 2005 he organized ten volunteer musicians to provide free music lessons for 90-underprivileged kids on Chicago’s south-side under the name Eternal Sound Family, utilizing space donated by Metropolitan Community Church. The following year, he began work as a professional mentor with the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Jazz Links Program. In 2010-2011 Irving produced a CD entitled, “The Drive” for the program while also teaching students about music publishing, licensing, marketing and promotion along with the creative and technical aspects of record production.
In 2014 the first evolution of Robert Irving III-Generations featured Irving’s wife, Lolo Irving, band co-founder & alto saxophone with an exceptional young trumpeter, Barrett Harmon, Irving’s 20-year old mentee, Irvin Pierce on tenor saxophone, Bob Davis on guitar, Emma Dayhuff on bass/vocals and Irving’s cousin, Charles “Rick” Heath IV on drums. When Harmon damaged his lip, Irving decided to replace him with a third woodwind player, who is also his Jazz Institute mentee, 25-year old, Rajiv Halim on soprano saxophone and flute. Irving explains, “I played trombone and other brass instruments in grade-school and high school, but I always had a passion for the rich sound of woodwind ensembles.” Irving later invited Scott Hesse to join the band on guitar.
Although the band began with Miles Davis repertoire composed and/or arranged by Irving, it soon evolved into a vehicle for Irving’s new compositions created specifically for the group. Irving observes, “In jazz, there are creators of the music and there are interpreters of those creations. From the beginning my attraction has always been to the former class, although, somehow, through years of integration of lessons learned; I developed my own voice as an interpreter that has become commensurate with my aesthetic as a composer and arranger.”
The new CD features ten original compositions by Irving with four originating from dreams. One of those four, Our Space in Time, is the title track, which Irving explains, “…Is about contemporary humanity’s opportunity and obligation to create something of value for future generations. In my value creation process, I personally look back to Wayne Shorter as a composer, Gil Evans as an arranger and Miles Davis as a stylist and extraordinary bandleader. My forward looking is, confidently, towards the gifted young musicians in this new band.”
Robert Irving III’s composition “Space” inspired Miles Davis’ return to music in 1979. Irving co-wrote the tune that would become the title track for the Miles Davis 1981 comeback album, “Man With the Horn”. He soon evolved into the roles of Davis’ producer and musical director to become the jazz icon’s longest collaborator (1979-1988). During this time Irving produced the albums “Decoy” and “You’re Under Arrest” for Davis. The former won the Downbeat Award for best Jazz Album by a Group and the latter garnered a Grammy nomination. As a musician and as producer of five Grammy award nominated projects, Irving worked closely with numerous music greats including, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter, Ramsey Lewis, Billy Joel, Terri Lyne Carrington, Diane Reeves, David Murray, Doudou N’Diaye Rose, Regina Carter, Gary Bartz, Pharaoh Sanders, John Scofield, Kirk Whalum, Sting, Grover Washington Jr, Nona Hendricks, George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Nancy Wilson, Branford Marsalis, Roy Ayers, R. Kelly and served as musical director for The Last Poets (40th Anniversary in Paris, France), Donald Bryd and for the group, Sister Sledge. Irving is the recipient of a 2015 Chicago Music Awards-Lifetime Achievement Award and is completing his first memoir entitled, “Harmonic Possibilities”.
Band co-founder and Alto saxophonist-Lolo Irving, a native of Paris, France, has performed with Archie Shepp, David Murray, Roy Ayers, George Clinton, Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis. She has a Masters degree in Musicology from Sorbonne Universités in Paris and taught alto saxophone and music history in her home country for 15-years. After wedding Robert Irving III in 2012 she relocated to Chicago in 2014 and they subsequently formed the group Generations.
Drummer-Charles “Rick” Heath IV has also toured and recorded with the Ramsey Lewis Group for four years and played the Oprah Winfrey/Quincy Jones Production of The Color Purple and performed with Donald Byrd, McCoy Tyner, Philip Bailey, Dee Bridgewater and Slide Hampton.
Emma Dayhuff bassist/vocalist, a native of Bozeman Montana, is a recording engineer and producer of recordings for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her, mostly wordless vocals function as an 8th musician on the Generations CD. A graduate of Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Emma was mentored by bass masters Eddie Gomez and Vincent Davis. She is a 2015 Chicago Luminarts Foundation Jazz Fellow.
Guitarist-Scott Hesse is a music educator who has performed internationally with Dee Alexander’s Evolution Ensemble, Stafford James String Ensemble and the Victor Garcia Organ Group. As a composer and recording artist Scott recently released his for CD on the Origin label.
Rajiv Halim plays soprano sax and flute with Generations. Early in his career, he was the saxophonist for the eclectic band “Kids These Days.” KTD toured parts of The United States and Canada opening for artists such as Snoop Dogg. As a younger-jazz lion, he won 1st place in Division II of The Union League Civic and Arts Foundation’s Jazz Improvisation Competition, and was awarded the Outstanding Individual Musician Award at the 2010 Elmhurst College Jazz Festival. He has also performed with the Ron Haynes’ Game Changers. Halim is currently compared to Cannonball Adderley with whom he shares the same birth date.
Tenor saxophonist-Irvin Pierce at the age of 20, is often compared to John Coltrane. He made his recording debut at the age of 15 on “The Drive” a CD produced by his mentor Robert Irving III for the Jazz Links Ensemble on the Jazz Institute of Chicago label. Irving says, “At that age one could hear the sound of a promising young kid. Today, in just five-years, I hear a young master soloist.” Irvin recently toured in France with Rob Mazurek’s Third Coast Ensemble.
The band Robert Irving III Generations celebrated their one-year anniversary with a recent performance at the 37th Chicago Jazz Festival. Prior to this the band had a pivotal two-month run, every Tuesday night during March-April at Andy’s Jazz Club in downtown Chicago. Irving notes, “This engagement gave us the opportunity to expand our repertoire of original compositions to 14-tunes. It also gave us a chance to assess audience responses to new and unfamiliar music prior to recording.” Building on this, the group continued to perform club dates and large neighborhood festivals leading up to their Chicago Jazz Festival debut on Labor Day weekend before an audience of 5,000 fans. Irving says, “Someone came up to me after that performance; as with almost every performance, and said, ‘I was blessed by the music.’ This is not something that one would normally expect to hear about a jazz concert. However, I think that because a large amount of the music came from dreams and because we tune at A432 hertz; (and not the standard A440), there is something otherworldly about our sound that people can feel on a deep level. Some refer to what we do as being jazz church.” Guitarist, Scott Hesse notes, “When people hear this music there is a real connection that is made and from the band’s point of view, what you really want, is to connect with people.”
Irving’s wife and band co-founder, Lolo Irving says, “The band has accomplished a lot in one year with 18-performances, a successful crowd-funding campaign for our CD project and the Chicago Jazz Festival engagement.” For her, all of this is full circle from her childhood in Paris, France. She was 14 years-old when her mother purchased the album “Decoy” by Miles Davis, with music composed and produced by Robert Irving III. She recalls, “I heard this album on a daily basis until the vinyl literally wore out. The cosmic sound of this music inspired me to learn the saxophone with the goal of playing with Miles Davis.”
She and Irving met about 12-years later during a three-week with saxophonist, bandleader, David Murray workshop in Paris in 1995. They traveled with the same workshop to Senegal the following year working with Senagalese master drummer, Doudou Ndiaye Rose and the Dakar, Senegal based rap group, Positive Black Soul. Just after this, young Lolo Irving spent three-months in Chicago working with Irving’s bands, School of Cool and the African Arts Ensemble in 1996 along side of David Murray, violinist Regina Carter and percussionist, Kahil El Zabar. Lolo and Irving remained close friends and collaborators over the next 15-years. While in Chicago in 2012 to mix her new album, Lolo and Irving realized they were both free and available at the same time and decided to get married. Irving says, “For me, our story is reminiscent of the love affair between Miles Davis and French singer, Juliette Gréco when he was 22 years old… only our story eventually progressed to the happy ending.” Robert Irving III-Generations is pursuing 2016 festivals in France and throughout Europe to continue extension of that full circle and add some chapters to the story.
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Robert Irving III-Yamaha acoustic piano
tracks 1,2,5*,6,7,8,10 (*electric piano)
Lolo Irving-Alto sax on tracks 3 & 7
Scott Hesse-Guitar tracks 2,3,4,7,8,10
Rajiv Halim-Soprano sax 1,4,8,10
Irvin Pierce-Tenor sax on tracks 1,2,6,10
Emma Dayhuff-Acoustic bass on tracks 2,8,10**
(10** Electric bass)
Charles “Rick” Heath VI-Drums on tracks 1 & 3
1 Poznan Dream 9:46
Theme melody is from a dream on 11/27/11 while at the Made In Chicago Jazz Festival in Poznan Poland. In my dream, I played the melody with by touching a tree trunk from which sound emanated.
2 Generations 6:18
Main theme is also from a dream during 2014 and the tune was developed as the band’s theme song with a contemporary groove.
3 Energy 8:06
This title speaks of the fact that all is energy in different configurations. The bridge with successive bars of 6/8 and 7/8 was influenced by my work with Indian percussionist, Badal Roy, a fellow Miles Davis alum.
4 Aurora Australis (Interlude) 0:48 (Spoken Word)
The title alludes to the “other” or southern aurora that we don’t often hear about. My poem is a parody on popular culture juxtaposed with a commentary on the plight of Australian Aboriginals:
In our space in time, as humankind
Having arrived at this intersection
at which we find ourselves;
in space time continuum
Gaining new momentum
on the precipice of possibility
Or possibly just in pursuit
of some forlorn fetish
Unyeilding to reason
for reasons well known
Our once in a lifetime opportunity…
to get it right;
Time will be no more
5 Our Space In Time 6:34 (Light Vocals)
It is estimated that 108 billion members of the human race (the only race) have occupied the earth since the beginning of time. Although, we only celebrate those that created something memorable. The title track is about the opportunity and obligation of contemporary humanity to leave something of lasting value for the generations to come. The main melody is from a dream of a big party in Paris attended by many of my musician friends. I make my “singing” debut on this track, “What we gonna do with our space in time…” joined by my wife Lolo Irving with French spoken word, which translates, “What else is possible and how does it get better than this?” Bassist Emma Dayhuff sings the chorus melody, “How can you choose in the moment how to play it, what to say, when all that matters, is what comes from the heart; and when the stories end, who will even know you ever existed, if you didn’t make a difference; now’s the time to start: (“to figure out exactly what your contribution will be… in our space in time.”).
6 Roads Less Traveled 6:35 (Wordless Vocal)
I wanted to compose a modern jazz piece that broke boundaries with free jazz elements, however, “arranged and orchestrated”.
I think of the passage just prior to the refrain as a “space tango”.
7 Octobre 10:54 (Light Vocal Chorus)
This tune was inspired by autumn colors and melancholy experienced during a trip to France and train ride through Brussels on the the way to a festival in Maastricht in the Netherlands during the month of my birth: Octorbre (French spelling).
8 Maat 10:42 (Wordless Vocal) Latin/Swing/Afro
Matt is the Ancient Egyptian concept of balance, truth order and morality as personified by the goddess of that name. The composition draws from the many rhythmic influences of the region as it moves between Latin, swing and African grooves.
9 Amor Incondicional (Interlude) 0:57 (Wordless Vocal)
Melodic theme inspired by my love for Brazilian music. The full version will be released on the next Generations project.
10 Every Today 13:44 (Wordless Vocal Melody)
Title is based on the notion that in some indigenous African cultures, there is no word or concept for “yesterday” or “tomorrow” as all is one continuous today. All time is now, in a 6/4 African groove.
All songs composed and arranged by Robert Irving III
Copyright © 2015 Vitasia Music Publishing Co./BMI
Producer: Robert Irving III
Co-Producer: Lolo Irving
Executive Producer: Rob Ruccia
Associate Producer: Darryl Jones