Cyrus Chestnut: Cyrus plays Elvis (2007)

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How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Cyrus Chestnut: Cyrus plays Elvis
Certainly a concept designed to push peoples' buttons, the fact is that if you don't know Elvis Presley's music, this CD doesn't sound radically different from a lot of soul jazz recordings from Blue Note in the 1960s. One of the big differences between rock and jazz is harmony: while jazz, partially built on the standards of the Great American Songbook, loves shifting, chromatic voice-leading, rock tends to be harmonically more static, either using other qualities to build and release tension or reveling in a more primitive energy.

"Hound Dog is a blues, the common ground between jazz and rock. However, like most jazz musicians Cyrus Chestnut doesn't just stay in the home tonality, instead arranging this blues so that it travels through other areas to display his formidable piano chops. "Love Me Tender is presented in jazz waltz style and is reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi's approach: on the surface, simple and charming, but requiring a lot of finesse and skill. On "It's Now or Never Chestnut stretches out and enjoys the empathic playing of Dezron L. Douglas (bass) and Neal Smith (drums); both perfect accompanists throughout the recording.

There are moments of schmaltz however, especially on "Can't Help Falling in Love and "Don't, where guest saxophonist Mark Gross seems to be channeling Kenny G. The closing track, "How Great Thou Art, is an old hymn heard in churches all over the world but the fact that Elvis also performed it is totally forgotten because Chestnut plays it as a solo piano piece, with simplicity and deep feeling. The concept of this CD may not be your cup of tea, but you can't say this guy isn't a great pianist.

Track Listing: Hound Dog; Dont Be Cruel; Cant Help Falling In Love; Love Me Tender; Its Now Or Never; Dont; Graceland; Suspicious Minds; Heartbreak Hotel; In The Ghetto; How Great Thou Art.

Personnel: Cyrus Chestnut: piano: Fender Rhodes; Dezron L. Douglas: bass; Neal Smith: drums; Mark Gross; soprano and alto saxophones (3, 6).

Record Label: KOCH International Jazz

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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