Pianist Cyrus Chestnut's trio of Michael Hawkins (bass) and Neal Smith (drums) played to two week's-worth of sold-out crowds at the new Dizzy's Club to wind down the end of one year and the beginning of the next, the latter of the two featuring legendary alto player Frank Morgan and trumpeter Marcus Printup. On Dec.29th, the trio opened the first set (sans horns) with a blistering display of virtuosity through the standard, "East of the Sun" and a ballad drenched in blues, particularly from the leader who revealed a perhaps not-so obvious influence in Bud Powell, while the trio performed as a single moving unit, doing away with solos, each member helping to push the music forward without drawing too much attention to themselves. Hawkins and Smith showed enough creativity not to have to resort to being mere backdrops to the leader (the billing should certainly have had their names listed but was instead the "Cyrus Chestnut Trio" strangely).
Smith - who recently and simultaneously released his first 2 CDs as leader - particularly shined on "Lighthearted Intelligence", taking an unaccompanied drum solo that showed an energetic drive and colorful pallet of sounds and rhythms, both on brushes and sticks. After the fourth number, a piano solo feature, Morgan and Printup arrived onstage, creating a swinging quintet in the vein of the club's namesake and the many historic trumpet/alto pairings both Dizzy and Morgan have participated. Morgan, a "storyteller" (in Cyrus' words), delivered a timeless tone on alto, taking one's ears back to the roots of bebop and cool. Along with Chestnut, he sang the blues via his horn on "Prelude to a Kiss", an extraordinary and emotional performance. You knew you were witnessing one of the horn's true living greats with but the first note he carefully blew with intentional fragility and breath. The quintet ended the evening with a rendition of the classic "Lover" which began as a Hawkins-Morgan duo before morphing into a piano-less quintet, then a trumpet quartet (sans Morgan), providing for a multi-textural interpretation and performance soaked in spontaneity, true to the art form - not to mention the spirit - of jazz.
~ Laurence Donohue-Greene