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Bebop - Released August 31, 2018 | HighNote Records

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Pianist Cyrus Chestnut is a virtuoso player with deep roots in both spiritual gospel music and harmonically sophisticated jazz. That said, he's also a classically trained artist with a wide-ranging and eclectic taste in music. He brings all of these influences to bear on his nuanced and enveloping 2018 trio date, Kaleidoscope. Joining him are bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Chris Beck, who offer empathetic support throughout. Here, Chestnut has chosen a handful of his favorite classical compositions, including tracks by Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, and Maurice Ravel, which he reworks in his own inimitable jazz style, alongside other standards and his own originals. What's particularly compelling about his choices is just how well the classical songs fit into the jazz trio concept. The Satie selections in particular lend themselves to a jazz approach. Chestnut's languid reading of "Gymnopedie No. 1" has the feel of a hazy summer afternoon, and brings to mind Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts soundtracks. He also turns the composer's "Son Binocle" into a jauntily urbane bossa nova. Elsewhere, he transforms Debussy's "Jimbo's Lullaby" into a bluesy, far-eyed rumination, anchored by a soulful bass solo intro from Wheeler. Similarly engaging is the trio's dramatic, modal jazz take on Ravel's "Entre Cloches," in which Chestnut's spiraling solo swells into a sustained din of reverberating bass notes before returning to the main theme. Conversely, his own songs, like the meditative "Father Time" and the lyrical "Prayer for Claudine," evince a classical feel, displaying his knack for finely attenuated melodies and richly textured harmonics. He splits the difference on his swaggering version of Deep Purple's classic rock anthem "Smoke on the Water," diving into the iconic main theme with Rachmaninov-esque dynamism and then pulling back into a mutative, Eastern-influenced improvisation. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Bebop - Released September 22, 2017 | HighNote Records

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Cyrus Chestnut's 2016 effort, the superb Natural Essence, benefitted greatly from his pairing with the duo of bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White. Thankfully, the pianist has followed up with another engaging set featuring the same veteran luminaries. An adept virtuoso talent, Chestnut soars alongside Williams and White on 2017's There's a Sweet Sweet Spirit. Elder jazz statesmen, Williams and White have decades of experience under their hats with credits for such legends as Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, and many others. Similarly, Chestnut has worked with such luminaries as Terence Blanchard, Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, and more. While all of his albums are worth checking out, there is something inspired and kinetic about his playing with Williams and White, as if they are all three pushing each other to discover new avenues of expression. Joining them this time on several tracks is yet another volcanic talent in vibraphonist Steve Nelson. Though he only appears on three cuts, his warm harmonic resonance contrasts beautifully with Chestnut's as they dig into an expansive late-'60s jazz sound on two of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson's best-known compositions, "Little B's Poem" and "The Littlest One of All." Away from Nelson, Chestnut displays his genre-bending skills on "Chopin Prelude," transfiguring the classical piece first with a cubist Thelonious Monk-style intro and later with a swinging Ellingtonian mid-section. Similarly compelling are the group's muscular and exotic take on Miles Davis' "Nardis" and a spritely reading of Williams' "Christina." Elsewhere, they deliver a languid and romantic take on the Stylistics' 1973 classic "You Make Me Feel Brand New," and dive headlong into the pianist's own Latin-infused "CDC." Ultimately, if there's one overriding sentiment that drives all of There's a Sweet Sweet Spirit, it's Chestnut and his band's spirit of soulful camaraderie. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Bebop - Released May 20, 2016 | HighNote Records

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As with his previous effort, 2015's A Million Colors in Your Mind, pianist Cyrus Chestnut's second Highnote release, 2016's Natural Essence, finds him communing with two veteran artists for a deeply heartfelt and swinging session. Whereas last time Chestnut was joined by bassist David Williams and drummer Victor Lewis, here he has conscripted the talents of bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White. Both Williams and White are industry icons with decades of playing experience and credits with such luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, Tony Williams, McCoy Tyner, and many others. While many of Chestnut's recordings lean toward the strait-laced and straight-ahead approach to modern jazz, he is by no means a reserved musical traditionalist. On the contrary, while he is adept at swinging acoustic jazz, one of his most formative experiences was as a member of vocalist Betty Carter's trio. A genre-bending maverick, Carter purportedly encouraged Chestnut to try new things and approach even the most well-known standard in an unexpected way. That expectation defying aesthetic fits nicely into Chestnut's work here with Williams and White, who come from a generation of jazz musicians who grew up playing electrified fusion, funk, and highly progressive post-bop influenced by the avant-garde. While the music here is more stripped down to the jazz essentials, they nonetheless tackle even the most well-known standard, like "It Could Happen to You," with a creative ebullience and in-the-moment spontaneity that grab your attention throughout. Also thrilling are the trio's takes on several original compositions, including Chestnut's sophisticated, minor-tinged "Faith Amongst the Unknown," White's languid, urbane ballad "Dedication," and Williams' soulful, roiling "Toku-Do." © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2000 | Atlantic Records

On their update of Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Cyrus Chestnut Trio and friends -- which include Michael Brecker, Kenny Garrett, Steve Cole, Manhattan Transfer, Vanessa Williams, and the Boys Choir of Harlem -- infuse classics like "O Tannenbaum," "What Child Is This," and "Linus and Lucy" with a modern holiday spirit. Brian McKnight joins Chestnut, drummer Steve Gadd, and bassist Christian McBride on "The Christmas Song," and Williams and the Boys Choir of Harlem appear on "Christmas Time Is Here." "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and the Chestnut original "Me & Charlie Brown" are some of the other highlights from this sophisticated, warm Christmas album. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 11, 1994 | Atlantic Jazz

On Revelation, Cyrus Chestnut offers 60 minutes of tasty, gospel- and blues-infused trio music. Both accessibility and virtuosity mark Chestnut's jazz playing, and his affinity for spirituals, hymns and down-home blues is evident in his emotional approach. He is fond of building momentum -- almost as if he were an evangelical preacher -- with repetitive and extended right-hand runs, and is most effective on the quicker, faster paced numbers. For this album, he is joined by Christopher J. Tomas (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums). The trio communicates well and swings hard. Nine of the 11 tracks on this, Chestnut's first release for Atlantic, are originals. Three of the album's best tracks are the bright, exciting "Elegie," the delicate solo vehicle, "Sweet Hour of Prayer" (backed only by Penn's brushes) and the pretty, original "Proverbial Lament." Many of the other tracks are played at faster tempos, none faster than "Macdaddy," on which he flexes his considerable chops. Revelation is a clean, enjoyable set led by a very promising young pianist. © Brian Bartolini /TiVo
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Jazz - Released March 22, 1996 | Atlantic Jazz

Cyrus Chestnut's third Atlantic CD continues to showcase his tremendous growth as a thought-provoking pianist and composer. "In the Garden" is an inspirational solo indicating his gospel roots. "East of the Sun (And West of the Moon)" proves his ability to create a novel trio arrangement of a standard tune covered by numerous musicians. The remaining tracks include a number of outstanding originals, especially the reflective "My Song in the Night" and the playful "Maria's Folly." © Ken Dryden /TiVo
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Jazz - Released February 16, 2010 | Atlantic Jazz

Joined by several important guests, Cyrus Chestnut proves once again that he is among the brightest, post-bop players of his generation. For this effort, his trio includes legends Ron Carter on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. Joining them are all-stars Lewis Nash (drums on two tracks), James Carter (alto on three tracks), Joe Lovano (tenor sax on two tracks), and two significant appearances by vocalist Anita Baker. This album is very good as well as very solid, with no tracks that clearly stand above the rest. Nash and Baker appear together on the album's only two standards: the slow, sexy "Summertime" and the bright, scat-filled "My Favorite Things." Carter's virtuoso brilliance dominates "Miss Thing" and "The Journey." Lovano contributes his unique intensity to "Any Way You Can" and joins Carter for the impressive two-horned workout "Sharp." As for the leader, he continues to demonstrate the rare ability to generate soul from the percussive piano. Though his versatility and technical facility is plainly evident, it is this emotional gift which sets him apart. He can play loud and fast; he has developed a lighter, more delicate touch on the ballads; he imparts elements of both blues and gospel in his sound; and he writes his own music. Cyrus Chestnut is recommended -- the album and the musician. © Brian Bartolini /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 16, 2001 | Warner Jazz

One thing one can say about this popular swinging trad jazz pianist -- he's definitely not selfish when it comes to passing the musical soul food around. The punchy, heavy-swaying eight-minute title track begins with a sizzling brass section and then Marcus Printup's thoughtful, several-minute trumpet solo, while Chestnut takes a supporting harmony role. "Brother With the Mint Green Vine" opens with a moody, dark chord foundation (very reminiscent of Joe Sample), but is largely fashioned as a duet between Chestnut's plucky ivories and Stefon Harris' whimsical vibes. Harris gets more solo time than his host. "Fantasia" has a classic trio sound in the Vince Guaraldi vein and is most memorable for Christian McBride's inventive upright bass solo over the soft brushes of Lewis Nash; Chestnut, of course, is at his elegant best, as he is on the one solo showcase he allows himself, a mournful rendition of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." He shows off his improv skills most effectively on the free-for-all trio piece "Minor Funk." Just in case listeners should grow complacent that this is just another multifaceted jazz project, Chestnut tosses in a little musical humor with the peppy, horn-driven, New Orleans-styled "Brother Hawky Hawk." It's Chestnut's first album of original tunes since 1998, and he's back stronger than ever. © Jonathan Widran /TiVo
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Bebop - Released December 4, 2015 | Smoke Sessions

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Bebop - Released April 21, 2015 | HighNote Records

Roughly 18 albums into his career, jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut delivers his HighNote record label debut with 2015's A Million Colors in Your Mind. With a title that borrows inspiration from a short story by Mexican author Maria Cristina Mena, the album finds Chestnut once again delving deep into his own colorfully chorded and swinging set of well-chosen cover songs. Although in his mid-fifties at the time of recording, Chestnut nonetheless wanted to record an album in which he could commune with musicians who were slightly older and more seasoned than himself. Accordingly, backing Chestnut here are the supremely intuitive duo of bassist David Williams and drummer Victor Lewis, who certainly bring decades of experience to Chestnut's album and, based on cuts like the trio's fluid take on Frank Loesser's gospel-infused "Brotherhood of Man" and Lewis' own "From a Tip," have an affinity for each other's playing. That said, the choice to work with experienced musicians is not a new one for Chestnut, who came up early in his career backing legendary vocalist Betty Carter, a position he inherited, in part, from Carter's longtime collaborator pianist John Hicks. Here, Chestnut even plays a Hicks composition, the atmospheric waltz "Yemenja." Elsewhere, Chestnut and his trio dig into a handful of urbane, soulful songs, from a sparkling take on late bassist Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step" to an inspired reworking of Lionel Richie's "Hello" and a languid, Latin-inflected version of Duke Ellington's "Day Dream." Ultimately, Chestnut continues to dazzle with A Million Colors in Your Mind, revealing ever more tantalizing musical layers. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 25, 1996 | Atlantic Jazz

Cyrus Chestnut covers a wide range of hymns, carols and spirituals on this outstanding solo piano CD. A very dramatic "Holy, Holy, Holy" would inspire any congregation, while the rich voicings in "We Three Kings" are subtle yet moving. "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" is the most compelling track, with a thought-provoking arrangement that makes great use of space. © Ken Dryden /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 24, 1995 | Atlantic Jazz

Cyrus Chestnut's The Dark Before the Dawn is a mature, versatile album. Chestnut and his trio members -- Steve Kirby (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums) -- provide their fortunate listeners with a little bit of everything on this collection. Chestnut pays homage to John Coltrane, and his brilliant "Giant Steps," on the lightning fast "Steps of Trane," and gives J.S. Bach a swinging, 21st century twist on the interesting "Baroque Impressions." "My Funny Valentine" is slow and spacious and represents Chestnut's best ballad playing to date. Mix in originals such as the confident "Sentimentalia," the pretty "The Mirrored Window," the playful "Call Me Later" and the show-stopping "Kattin'." Kirby lays down a rock-solid musical foundation and Penn generates the rhythmic fire, but it is Chestnut who breathes life and soul and meaning into these tunes. He has the unique ability to make complicated music both approachable and enjoyable. The listener won't realize it, but will eventually notice their toes tapping and their fingers snapping to this recommended set. © Brian Bartolini /TiVo
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Gospel - Released July 8, 2003 | Warner Records

Cyrus Chestnut offers his listeners joy, inspiration, and a different approach to some classic material on You Are My Sunshine. This recording differs from Soul Food, his 2001 chart-topper, in that he digs deeper into the blues, gospel, and jazz traditions. Chestnut also uses his influences in a collective arrangement rather than using each influence separately. For example, on "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," Chestnut alters this gospel piece to form a New Orleans sound. Instead of the meditative tempo the song is known for, he adds a Stevie Wonder harmonic influence on the interlude after the bass and piano to take the predictability out of the song. On "Errolling," he pays homage to the great pianist Erroll Garner. "Flipper" is a melody that offers fun and simplicity. Cyrus Chestnut is an excellent improviser, composer, arranger and pianist. With You Are My Sunshine, his virtuosity continues to shine just as radiantly. © Paula Edelstein /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 9, 2007 | eOne Music

You've got to give Cyrus Chestnut credit for not playing by the rules. Although he had little familiarity with the music of Elvis Presley, 15 years into his recording career the gifted jazz pianist decided -- virtually on a whim -- to record an album of Elvis songs. Chestnut did some homework, and working with his trio members bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Neal Smith, set out to explore. It's a great idea -- in theory, but not always in practice. Like any standards -- and Elvis' catalog certainly falls into that category at this point in time -- the Presley canon is ripe for interpretation. Presley never wrote his own material, but he had the best in the business at his disposal, and the more substantial songs he chose to record (that would mean no "Do the Clam") certainly boasted memorable melodies -- the key component to an artist seeking to offer his own interpretive non-vocal take on a song. But Chestnut doesn't always make the most of those melodies here. Cyrus Plays Elvis is most satisfying when the pianist breaks loose from the original setting and leaves it way behind. On the album's opening track, "Hound Dog," he sticks cautiously close to the root melody and tempo until it's solo time, at which point Chestnut turns out a thrilling cascade of tuneful keyboarding. Like a number of other tracks on the album, it's reminiscent of the Ramsey Lewis Trio's approach to interpreting pop in the mid-'60s, not a bad thing by any means, but not very challenging jazz. At its lamest, Cyrus Plays Elvis is too simplistic and loungey, adding nothing to these familiar songs. The smooth jazz treatment utilized on tunes like "Can't Help Falling in Love" and "Suspicious Minds" probably makes sense if Chestnut's sole aim is to get those songs played on "lite" radio stations, but as an involving listening experience it leaves something to be desired. "It's Now or Never," despite the clever Brazilian/Latin swing arrangement, feels ready-made for a noisy hotel bar where it will be played to oblivious tourists over the sounds of clanking glasses and dumb pickup lines. And "Suspicious Minds," though performed deftly by the trio, doesn't really possess the desperate sense of impending loss that Elvis' version did. There are moments of brilliance, to be sure, and three of them close out the album. "Heartbreak Hotel" is as close to free and adventurous as this record gets, a rolling, unleashed improvisation loosely based on the theme. The first segment of the track serves as a showcase for the drummer, and when Chestnut takes over midway through he immediately proves just how inventive he can be, and how willing he is to let go and venture into uncharted waters. Most of the song sounds nothing at all like the Elvis tune, and it works because of its lack of allegiance to the original melody, not in spite of it. "In the Ghetto" is soulful and heartfelt, as it should be -- Chestnut is closer to the song's intent than he is to, say, "Don't Be Cruel" -- but it's the final track, "How Great Thou Art," one of many religious-themed songs Elvis recorded over the years, that suggests just how special the entire effort could have been. Like Elvis, Chestnut is a man of faith -- he's recorded in the Christian vein before -- but he eschews a standard gospel format here and instead delivers a solo piano rendition that is regal, warm, and, yes, inspirational. Perhaps next time Chestnut should stick with Cyrus Plays Elvis Gospel. © Jeff Tamarkin /TiVo
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Jazz - Released August 26, 2013 | Wj3 Records

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Jazz - Released August 11, 2009 | Jazz Legacy Productions

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Bebop - Released June 8, 2010 | Jazz Legacy Productions

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Bebop - Released March 20, 2012 | Wj3 Records

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Jazz - Released March 18, 2016 | Jazz Legacy Productions