6

Cyrus Chestnut Trio + Stefon Harris: Tempe, AZ, May 31, 2013

Cyrus Chestnut Trio + Stefon Harris: Tempe, AZ, May 31, 2013
Patricia Myers By

Sign in to view read count
Cyrus Chestnut Trio and Stefon Harris
Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ
May 31, 2013

Pianist Cyrus Chestnut has perfected the art of musical surprise, creating dialogues between his own hands as well as with his colleagues. He launched his Tempe, Arizona concert by stating, "We like to play the notes we've never played before." He most assuredly did that for a full two hours, supported by bassist Eric Wheeler and 19-year-old drummer Evan Sherman, soon joined by vibraphonist Stefon Harris.

Chestnut's Art Tatum-esque single-note lines sounded as if three hands were playing. His improvisations often resembled Erroll Garner's style of altering melody and time, accented by complex chord changes. The diverse concert repertoire was fueled from start to finish by Chestnut's elegant invention and swinging buoyancy.

In the concert's opening chart, saxophonist Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite," Chestnut led a joyous excursion into bebop's musical freedom. He made immense use of the keyboard's treble range, punctuating with thundering bass chords. In contrast, his original "Yu's Blues" from the pianist's Journeys (Jazz Legacy, 2010), offered a reflective mood reminiscent of "Willow Weep for Me," with robust accents from Wheeler.

A rendition of "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" was refreshed by uncommon harmonies and shifting tempo changes deftly supported by Sherman. Although Chestnut rarely resorted to quoting from other compositions, he injected a bit of the Jeopardy TV game show theme, flashing a sly sideways grin at the audience.

An unusual onstage placement of the piano put Chestnut's back to his colleagues, but that didn't seem to impact the combo's synergism. He signaled shifts in tempo and invited solo spots with a slight turn or nod of his head, reminiscent of Count Basie leading his big band from the piano bench with a raised finger or head-tilt.

Harris joined the trio on vibraphone and marimba, his large-head red mallets flashing in pairs and fours at rocket speeds. His tone was resonantly mellow during duet sections with Chestnut on "It Could Happen to You," the vibraphonist using his right mallet on vibes and left on marimba (his original instrument as a youth). His meditative ballad, "Let's Take a Trip to the Sky," featured dreamy piano moves that Harris accented with swift alternation between his two instruments. Maybe because there was no horn player, his treble scat-sounds were more evident than in the past, sometimes distracting from his remarkable ability.

"Brother with the Mint Green Vine," from Chestnut's Soul Food (Atlantic, 2001), was fueled by piano-vibes/marimba unison segments and vigorous exchanges, Wheeler and Sherman teaming up to punctuate and propel. A mood shift came with singer/songwriter Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," from Chestnut's Spirit (Jazz Legacy, 2009), the pianist creating rippling cascades of notes as Sherman employed Thai sticks for a softer sound.

One of the evening's most memorable charts was the closing title track from Chestnut's Soul Food (Atlantic, 2001). His gospel-funk blend included a playful quote from "Down by the Riverside, " referencing his childhood start, playing at age nine for services at a Baptist church in Baltimore, MD, where his father was organist and his mother was choir director. The concert closed the annual seasonal series presented by LakeshoreMusic.org.

Photo Credit

Dave Kaufman

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival 2017 Live Reviews Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival 2017
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Mike Zito at the Iridium Live Reviews Mike Zito at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall Live Reviews Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall
by Duncan Heining
Published: June 20, 2017
Read Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017
by Doug Collette
Published: June 18, 2017
Read Jean Luc Ponty Band at the Boulder Theater Live Reviews Jean Luc Ponty Band at the Boulder Theater
by Geoff Anderson
Published: June 17, 2017
Read ELBJAZZ 2017 Live Reviews ELBJAZZ 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 15, 2017
Read "Quinsin Nachoff's Flux at Constellation" Live Reviews Quinsin Nachoff's Flux at Constellation
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: November 22, 2016
Read "Karuna at LaFontsee Gallery" Live Reviews Karuna at LaFontsee Gallery
by John Ephland
Published: May 2, 2017
Read "Zbigniew Seifert Jazz Violin Competition 2016" Live Reviews Zbigniew Seifert Jazz Violin Competition 2016
by Martin Longley
Published: September 16, 2016
Read "April Jazz Festival in Espoo, Finland" Live Reviews April Jazz Festival in Espoo, Finland
by Anthony Shaw
Published: May 9, 2017
Read "Bobby Hutcherson tribute at SFJAZZ Center" Live Reviews Bobby Hutcherson tribute at SFJAZZ Center
by David Becker
Published: January 24, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.