Back to the Permian Basin

By: Butch Ewing

November 25, 2010


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In a return engagement to the Permian Basin – after their fine performance at the Hot Summer Nights series – Eddie  Irving and the Classic Swing Band wowed an audience at the Petroleum Club last Thursday. The band was presented by the West Texas Jazz Society. The atmosphere was more subdued than during the summer – fewer people and a rather icy ballroom led to a slow start.

It was also clear that Irving was suffering from some type of cold or other ailment that made his voice rougher and less able to perform multiple songs without break. But the band covered well through instrumentals and a general support for Irving that made for a harmonious, if slightly disjointed first half.

The multi-talented Tom Leper played flute, trumpet and trombone. It was on the former that he was best – “Moon River” was as dreamy as the Mississippi on a hot Louisiana night, while he introduced some of Van Morrison’s latter-day jazzy tones to the early classic, “Moondance”.  This was a sophisticated amalgam and improvisation using an oeuvre of more than forty years.

Between songs Irving et al. kept up a steady repartee with the audience, including the comment that he would be a perfect James Bond if the famous British spy “were 12 inches shorter and a lot fatter”.

In the second half a sultry “Girl from Ipanema” was followed by a stately, elegant “Tennessee Waltz”. The dance floor became full during the waltz, and we glimpsed a time long ago when all well-to-do people  were trained to dance at an early age. Several couples spun around with intricate speed and ease while others were satisfied with a quieter, less frenetic pace.

Irving seemed to return to full form – and voice – for the twelve songs in the second half. One of the most compelling aspects of his performance is his ability to move from one mood to another in a flowing manner.  The contrasts are always interesting rather than jolting. So “When I Fall in Love” was delivered with a delicate softness, as if the emotions were almost too tender to be rendered in words; but it was soon followed by his characteristically possessed version of “Mack the Knife” – a number that is apparently a “love song” according to the tongue-in-cheek Irving and his Classic Swing Band.

Perhaps it is a love-song – but one that explores the decidedly unconventional romance between a serial killer and multiple murder. Those couples that had danced so quietly and gently a few minutes before now celebrated the untimely demise of “sweet Lucy Brown” among other unfortunates to come across Mack when he is short of money.

It was a fine and frenzied end to what was mostly a laid back evening. More people in the audience and a warmer room temperature would have made for a more energetic atmosphere, but Irving did as well as he could with the environment offered to his band.

By Graham Dixon

Midland Reporter-Telegram