Amazon.com Widgets

The State of the Piano 2009: Cyrus Chestnut and Jessica Williams

By Published: | 4,471 views
The jazz palette is long and wide. Within any given performance format there exist seminal artists as different as saxophonists John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
and Lester Young
Lester Young
Lester Young
1909 - 1959
saxophone
, trumpeters Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
and Lester Bowie
Lester Bowie
Lester Bowie
1941 - 1999
trumpet
, and pianists Art Tatum
Art Tatum
Art Tatum
1909 - 1956
piano
and Gene Harris
Gene Harris
Gene Harris
1933 - 2000
piano
.



When speaking of solo piano performances, two beacons performing today are Cyrus Chestnut

Cyrus Chestnut
Cyrus Chestnut
b.1963
piano
and Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams
b.1948
piano
. Excellent composers and performers, Chestnut and Williams illustrate how polar approaches can lead to the same sublime place.

Cyrus Chestnut

Spirit

Jazz Legacy Productions

2009

Spirit can be considered the sister release to Cyrus Chestnut's 1997 Christmas release Blessed Quiet: Collection of Hymns, Spirituals and Carols (Atlantic Jazz) and 2000's reinterpretation of Vince Guaraldi

Vince Guaraldi
Vince Guaraldi
1928 - 1976
piano
's A Charlie Brown Christmas (Atlantic Jazz).

Where those recordings dealt directly with seasonal classics, Spirit cultivates religiously related material from several different sources, including the church hymnal, jazz, pop music and original composition. While conservatory trained, at the Peabody Institute in classical music and the Berklee College of Music in jazz, Chestnut's biggest influence may well be the church, where he served as keyboard player before his teens.

Western Christian tradition has provided a mostly inexhaustible inventory of music for any manner of interpretation. On Spirit, Chestnut pays both celestial and temporal homage to traditional African-American gospel with material including "That Old Time Religion," "Wade In The Water," Bill Withers' "Lean on Me," Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's "Come Sunday," and Simon and Garfunkle's "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

While the church certainly informs Chestnut's playing, that playing possesses a greater polish and lacks the earthy organic nature otherwise possible in interpretation (consider the aforementioned Gene Harris). Chestnut spins a reverent sophistication into his performances that emerges as an insistent left-hand figure on "Lean On Me" and a Lisztian-Schubert anxiety beneath "Bridge Over Troubled Water. Chestnut's deep bass notes are well captured here. Spirit proves anything but a predictable treatment of spiritual themes. Chestnut raises praise to an art form.

Visit Cyrus Chestnut on the web.

Jessica Williams

The Art of the Piano

Origin Records

2009

After recording for several labels, Jessica Williams may have found her most empathetic home at Origin Arts. She has produced several fine recordings with the label that include: Songs (with Carolyn Graye)(0A2, 1997); Billy's Theme: A Tribute to Dr. Billy Taylor (Origin, 2006); Songs for a New Century (2008, Origin); and now, in 2009, The Art of the Piano, recorded in solo performance live at The Triple Door, Seattle.

Like Cyrus Chestnut, Williams enjoyed classical training at the Peabody Institute but forewent any additional academics for a stint in drummer Philly Joe Jones

Philly Joe Jones
Philly Joe Jones
1923 - 1985
drums
' band. Still, Williams' classical experience deeply colors her jazz performance. She opens the disc with a lengthy blues composed for the venue. A capable blues player, Williams infuses the 12-bar format with contrapuntal flourishes and chromatic variances reminiscent of Scriabin by way of Bach. "Triple Door Blues" is one of six original compositions on the disc. Williams' writing is characterized by repeating simple, often ascending figures over which she solos as only she can, illustrating all influences, and no influences, on her playing.

"Love and Hate" is such a piece, where Williams employs a variety of percussive techniques to color her melodies. "Elaine" is an ostensible ballad with harmonics borrowed from Tin Pan Alley and shown through a prism of modernity. Williams plays two standards, Erik Satie's "First Gymnopedie" and John Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament." In the former, Williams instills a steady whimsy and in the Coltrane piece, she captures all of the saxophonist's angular presentation of his wall of sound. Jessica Williams has attracted much attention lately and it is about time. She is Bill Evans

Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
with density, McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
with a soft touch, she is none other than Jessica Williams.

Visit Jessica Williams on the web.


Tracks and Personnel

Spirit

Tracks: Oh How I Love Jesus; Lift Every Voice and Sing; Blessed Assurance; Wade In The Water; Lean on Me; I Surrender All; Gospel Improv #1; Old Time Religion; Bridge Over Troubled Water; Come Sunday; All By All; All Creatures of Our God and King; Peace; The Lord's Prayer.



Personnel: Cyrus Chestnut: piano.

The Art of the Piano

Tracks: Triple Door Blues; Esperanza; Love and Hate; Elaine; First Gymnopedie; Prophets; Diane; Lonnie's Lament.



Personnel: Jessica Williams: piano.


comments powered by Disqus
Search
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Mark Elf

Mark Elf

About | Enter

Stefano Bollani

Stefano Bollani

About | Enter

Carmen Lundy

Carmen Lundy

About | Enter

Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith

About | Enter

Bandzoogle: GET STARTED TODAY - FREE TRIAL

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

Article Search