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November 2006

Robert Lee Irving III Trio
New Momentum
Sonic Portraits

Fans of Miles Davis’ late electric period may have wondered what became of Robert Lee Irving III, who played keyboards with Davis and was involved in the production of Decay and You’re Under Arrest. Irving, in his own description, has worked mostly “behind the scenes” since leaving Davis in 1988, as an arranger, producer and composer of music for theater and film. New Momentum is his second recording under his own name (the first was 18 years ago), and an attempt to establish himself as the leader of an acoustic piano trio.

The jazz marketplace is crowded in this category, and Irving does not sound ready to compete. He is a mannered and stylized pianist, with a heavy dependence on recurrent devices like languid, spacey, treble ripples and repetitious little hooks and riffs, with which he tries to build tension. Rather like a New Age player, Irving is preoccupied with atmosphere. “Primordial Waters” contains little musical content, but rather a series of gestures intended to convey free-flowing waters and “a state of infinite creative potential.” But Irving’s creative potential is distinctly finite.

Even Buster Williams is unable to provide much firm substance for this date, partly because the weak recorded sound diminishes his customary bass authority.

Originally published in November 2006
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