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Album Review

Cyrus Chestnut's straight-ahead mainstream jazz has always been shaded by the church, gospel, and spiritual music of his heritage. So it is no surprise that he would turn to this aspect of his inner being for inspiration on this program of solo piano inventions and interpretations. But it is not all hymns and pew-based songs turned into instrumentals, although that aspect is clearly represented here. Chestnut mixes in pop tunes and jazz standards, while his arrangements of well-known religious themes are cleverly modified or updated with his personal stamp of modernity and voicings, delightfully rendered with every phrase. This mix of traditional and contemporary styles is heard from the outset in the modal 5/4 touch placed on "Oh, How I Love Jesus," the straight-ahead and a bit off minor "Lift Every Voice & Sing," or the bouncy, confident "Blessed Assurance." A typical choice, "Wade in the Water" is energized, the Bill Withers hit "Lean on Me" takes into account its soul-jazz base while adding a mid-tempo reverence, "I Surrender All" is cast in a light trot, "Gospel Improv #1" is less made up and more a thematic blues, and "Old Time Religion" is a nice waltz but arranged quite differently. The rest of the program is much more serene, laid-back, and solemn. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is a twinkling and cascading cover, Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" an appropriately stock choice, as is Horace Silver's "Peace" as the pace of the remainder of the CD completely slows down. This recording would be perfect for holiday family dinners, and as it stands musically, it's clearly a labor of love for the always impressive pianist, still an underrated player in the general scheme of things. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: 17 January 1963 in Baltimore, MD

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

An adept jazz pianist, Cyrus Chestnut balances his lithe technical skill with a robust, soulful style that speaks to his deep gospel roots and love of swinging hard bop. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Chestnut first studied piano with his father at the age of five, with official lessons beginning two years later. By the age of nine, he was enrolled in the prep program at the Peabody Institute. He graduated from Berklee with a degree in jazz composition and arranging. Chestnut took his time, working...
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Spirit, Cyrus Chestnut
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