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Cyrus Chestnut has always brought a palpable sense of joy to his music-making. Since gaining notoriety with the young lions of the '80s, his gospel-rooted approach has earned him a reputation as one of the most reliably versatile pianists on the mainstream scene.
Genuine Chestnut is a mixed bag, though. While there's plenty of fine playing here from the 42-year-old leader and his trio, along with guests Steve Kroon (percussion) and Russell Malone (guitar), the music only occasionally transcends the merely well-played. Only a few of Chestnut's originalsthe bebop workout "Mason Dixon Line, the ballad/bossa nova hybrid "Ellen's Song," and the insistent groove of "Baby Girl's Strut make a lasting impression.
The cover choices, too, leave something to be desired. Chestnut has often successfully merged jazz with pop and R&B influences, but not even his sparkling piano or Malone's inventive guitar licks can make memorable jazz out of Bread's sappy '70s soft-rock hit "If or Roberta Flack's tedious "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. More enjoyable are a trio of inspirational numbers that close the album, especially a moving solo piano take on the traditional hymn "Lord I Give Myself to You.
Track Listing: The Brown Soldier; El Numero Tres; If; Ellen's Song; Mason Dixon Line; Baby Girl's Strut; The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face; Eyes on the Prize; Through the Valley; I'm Walkin'; Lord I Give Myself to You.
Personnel: Cyrus Chestnut: piano; Michael Hawkins: bass; Neal Smith: drums; Steve Kroon: percussion; Russell Malone: guitar.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.