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Genuine Chestnut

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Album Review

There's just no way not to like Cyrus Chestnut. His playing is robust but tasteful, and he plays ballads with a liquid fluency; his original compositions brim with good cheer; he favors middling tempos that neither tempt him to show off excessively nor to bog himself down in extended, self-indulgent elaboration. His first album for the Telarc label showcases all of his strengths. He can take the unlikeliest melodies and make them sound like standards: on this album, he manages to spin equally refined musical gold out of both a schlocky 1970s love ballad (Bread's "If") and a faux folk song turned soul hit (Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"). And he can handle knotty Latin rhythms with offhanded ease (though the rhythmic structure on "Baby Girl's Strut" feels a little bit disorganized). Best of all, he plays gospel tunes with a heartfelt fervor that never descends into sentimentality. Chestnut's own "Mason Dixon Line" is one of the album's high points, a joyful bebop number that makes you hope he'll someday do a whole album of Bud Powell compositions. The album's relentless, midtempo pleasantness makes it easy to stop paying attention by about halfway through, but every time you catch yourself drifting and start listening closely again, you'll notice something else wonderful. Highly recommended.

Biography

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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Genuine Chestnut, Cyrus Chestnut
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