Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CYRUS CHESTNUT'S LATEST DISC IS REMINISCENT OF HIS WORK ON ATLANTIC RECORDS

Finally, Cyrus, I’ve found a moment to put down my thoughts about your latest album The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet, which puts me in the mind of those splendid albums you cut for Atlantic Records. I’m running four months late, so you have to excuse me. WJ3 Records released the album in March. Two weeks ago, I bought the last copy that Street Corner Music in Oak Park, MI had. I’ve played it every day since then. 

Of your generation you’re my favorite jazz piano player. Every time you’ve played in Detroit or near Detroit I’ve made it a plus to hear you. For many years, you could do no wrong in my book. You put out one stellar jazz album after another such as Revelation, Dark Before the Dawn, and Earth Stories. After you left Atlantic Records where those albums were born, you hit a rough patch. Your post-Atlantic albums were inconsistent. 

To this day, I don’t understand why you made Cyrus Chestnut Plays Elvis. Honestly, Cyrus, when I heard it I thought you had lost your mind. And worst, I was concerned the jazz world had lost one of its brightest piano players. I wish you had consulted me before you cut the album. I would’ve stopped you for fear you’re going to alienate a chunk of your fan base.  

Of your discography many albums, Cyrus Chestnut Plays Elvis is the only eyesore. Cyrus, on this very blog, I dogged the album. If you saw the review, probably you thought you’d lost a longtime fan forever. Well you did not. I continued to buy your work, and some of it I enjoyed. You bounced from label to label--Telarc, Koch Records, Legacy Production, 1-2-3-4Go, and WJ3--after Atlantic closed its jazz division, but you maintained a healthy recording output. The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet is the finest of your post-Atlantic work. 

On your quartet albums, you showcase your band-mates more. For example, on The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet saxophone player Stacy Dillard is the center of attention throughout. Dillard blows brilliantly on every single cut. He goes into the basement of your originals with a searchlight and finds hidden nuances you hoped he'd unearth. 


People who have this album mistaking Dillard for the leader isn't surprising. Not that Dillard is a showoff. On Annibelle Cousins, What’s Happening and Indigo Blue, Dillard case the melodies like a car thief, improvising carefully without setting off any alarms. 

Cyrus, nowadays the jazz scene is overrun with slackers. On The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet, your staff has a strong sense of responsibility. Bass player Dezron Douglas and drummer Willie Jones III, jazz musicians you’ve been running the streets with lately are dependable role players. Neither has a issue with performing most of the manual laborer. Cyrus you designed and executed The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet perfectly. It feels like those homemade albums you made for Atlantic Records.
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