Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PIANIST CYRUS CHESTNUT RELEASES A LIVE ALBUM, FINALLY

"Midnight Melodies" is the jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut's first live album. He made it at Smoke, a favorite jazz club in New York for some jazz pianists. He’s always wanted to make a live album but for whatever reasons just got around to doing one. This is his best trio album in years. 
Since leaving Atlantic Records over a decade ago, some of Chestnut's albums have been below par. He put out a few good ones such as “Journey” and “Spirit,” and some not so good such as “Cyrus Chestnut Plays Elvis” and "Genuine Chestnut". But when he makes a quality album its quality from head to toe.
As for this new album, Chestnut staffs it with bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis, star players in jazz for some time now, who have a history with the late pianist John Hicks,  Chestnut's mentor.
This album comes off as a nod to Hicks when the trio plays his “Two Heart Beats” “Pocket Full of Blues,” and “Naima’s Love Song”. On the latter, the trio is in full depth. 

Chestnut mixes bits of the hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer with the standard “For All We Know,” and it works gorgeously. He’s in the moment letting his imagination joyride. 
Sweet as Chestnut's reworking of "Naima's Love Song" is, it isn’t the standout. Milt Jackson's blues "Bag's Groove" is  and it's likely to be played over and over. 
Chestnut opens the blues toying with the melody before blowing it wide open. On it, Chestnut sounds a lot like the pianist Gene Harris when he was in the throes of a blues.
Chestnut always puts the spotlight on his band-mates when fronting larger bands, although he's the leader, he seems comfortable in a supporting role. In this live trio setting,however, he allows himself to thrive. 
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