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Cyrus Chestnut, the jazz pianist who has spent the past two decades blending a range of styles into a unique trademark sound, makes his Telarc debut with the release of Genuine Chestnut. The album is a carefully balanced mix of original material with some well known pop melodies from the past several decades all driven by Chestnut's eclectic yet unmistakable jazz sensibility. 2006.
Born in 1963, Cyrus Chestnut has become for his generation what Oscar Peterson was for his: the crowd-pleasing-est of mainstream pianists. Like the mighty Oscar, though with less superhuman speed, the genial Cyrus possesses consummate technical facility, swings hard, is most comfortable in a trio, enjoys the presence of a guitarist and in his mission to entertain sometimes plays play down to the audience. "Genuine Chestnut," Chestnut's first Telarc album, does boast an easy-listening treatment (as if there can be any other kind) of the old Bread ballad, "If." And, keyed to a gentle, subtly shifting reading of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," the performance is unusually restrained. A timely treatment of Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin,'" one of three cuts featuring the excellent guitarist Russell Malone, is surprisingly bereft of New Orleans style. But with its soulful thrusts, balletic flourishes, and unabashedly warm-spirited playing, the music grows on you. Backed by bassist Michael Hawkins and drummer Neal Smith (and, most of the time, percussionist Steve Kroon), Chestnut crafts original tunes that deal in gospel, funk, and blues without ever calling attention to the cards they're holding. --Lloyd Sachs
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Originally published in Port Folio Weekly - February 28, 2006
Copyright 2006 Port Folio Weekly. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.