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 with a number of top-notch musicians (Jon Hendricks, Betty Carter, Terence Blanchard, and Donald Harrison) before finally recording his first solo CD at the age of 30. His initial dates as a leader were recorded for the Japanese label Alfa (reissued on Evidence), and he became an Atlantic artist in 1994 with the critically well-received Revelation. Several more highly regarded Atlantic releases followed, including 1995's Earth Stories and 1998's superb Cyrus Chestnut, which featured guest spots from Joe Lovano, James Carter, and Anita Baker.
In 2000, Chestnut delivered his first holiday-themed album, Charlie Brown Christmas, and rounded out his Atlantic contract with 2001's all-original Soul Food. He then moved to Warner Bros. for 2003's You Are My Sunshine, followed by Genuine Chestnut in 2006 and Cyrus Plays Elvis in 2007. The following year, he released Black Nile on Japan's M&I label. In 2013, he delivered the hard bop-infused Soul Brother Cool, which featured trumpeter Freddie Hendrix. He then showcased his trio on the concert album Midnight Melodies, recorded live at Smoke in New York City.
In 2015, Chestnut released his debut album for HighNote, the trio effort A Million Colors in Your Mind, which featured backing from bassist David Williams and drummer Victor Lewis. For his second HighNote effort, 2016's Natural Essence, the pianist was joined by bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White. Williams and White were once again on board for 2017's There's a Sweet Sweet Spirit, which also featured vibraphonist Steve Nelson. Also that year, he joined Charnett Moffett on the bassist's Music from Our Soul. ~ Ken Dryden