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Cyrus Chestnut Trio at Duc des Lombards

Patricia Myers By

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Cyrus Chestnut Trio
Duc des Lombards
Nous N'Irons Pas a New York Festival
Paris, France
August 2, 2016

Pianist Cyrus Chestnut dazzled a rapt audience during the opening concert of his two nights at the sixth annual Nous N'Irons Pas a New York (We're Not Going to New York) festival that presents American stars. From the first to the final note, he was a man of few words and of much melodic magic.

Chestnut and his U.S. sidemen wove a melodic spell over listeners in the two-level, 75-seat Paris jazz club, named 35 years ago to honor Duke Ellington. The opening selection of the hour-long set, "Beatrice," saxophonist Sam Rivers' tribute to his wife, instantly affirmed Chestnut's ultra-dexterity in multiple torrents of 32nd notes. The unannounced second chart was similar in complexity, the pianist's powerful style supported by swinging bassist Buster Williams and lithe drummer Lenny White.

A familiar standard was next, "Have You Met Miss Jones?" launched by solo piano with an Erroll Garner-like mysticism that preceded the melody clue to the title. Like Garner, Chestnut continually reinvents familiar charts with aural surprises, although this concert was very different from the one I reviewed here in 2013. This one featured few jazz standards, although the pianist may have chosen more of those for the second concert set, or his second night.

White's original, "Dedication," provided style and tone contrast, Chestnut creating a classical introduction that merged into a pensive segment, then the contrast of angular chord surges. The trio continued with three unnamed charts before the leader launched a strong-swinging blues that was playfully lively, bringing the strongest audience response.

At its end, as the trio stood to leave the stage, the audience shifted into European-style unison clapping to coax an encore; it seemed that the listeners wanted more blues from this trio. Instead, Chestnut delivered an innovative solo rendition of "Lover" that was studded with the surprise elements that have indelibly distinguished his personal style.

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