b. 1953, Chicago, Illinois, USA. As a child Irving played brass instruments but also studied piano. Raised partly in Chicago and also in North Carolina, he played many kinds of music in numerous ensembles, meanwhile studying extensively. In 1978, he returned to Chicago where he continued playing in various bands until he came to the attention of Miles Davis. He co-composed and co-arranged tracks on Davis’ 1981 The Man With The Horn. Two years later, he played on, wrote for and co-produced Davis’ Decoy and later You’re Under Arrest, both of which were Grammy nominated. He was with Davis from then until the end of the decade, leaving in 1989. During this time, Irving also studied with Gil Evans.
Among others with whom Irving has played and sometimes recorded are Victor Bailey, Gary Bartz, Michael Brecker, Oscar Brown Jnr. , Regina Carter, Khalil El Zabar, Eddie Henderson, Billy Joel, Oliver Lake, Ramsey Lewis, Marilyn Mazur, Marcus Miller, David Murray, Wallace Roney, Pharoah Sanders, Sister Sledge and Phil Upchurch. He also co-founded and worked with the Davis alumni bands, ESP and ESP2 and is also founder of Chicago’s African Arts Ensemble. Additionally, he has produced albums for Murray, Gerald Albright, Bill Evans, Branford Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Patrice Rushen, Carlos Santana, John Scofield, Wayne Shorter, Sting and Grover Washington Jnr.
Irving has composed music for films and television, the former including Street Smart (1987) and Scenes For The Soul (1995). He also composed ‘Mademoiselle Mandarin’, a concerto for jazz harp, performed by Markus Klinko and the Miami Chamber Symphony Orchestra. In 1989, Irving was producer for Terri Lyne Carrington’s Grammy-nominated Real Life Story and in the early 00s he again teamed with the drummer to form and direct Sonic Portraits Entertainment, an artist controlled record label. The label’s first releases included 2006’s New Momentum, on which Irving turned to acoustic playing, teaming up with bass players Buster Williams and Marlene Rosenberg and Yusef Ernie Adams on drums. Since his time with Davis, and especially from the late 90s, Irving has painted and has exhibited in Chicago and New York.