During a career spanning 20 years, Cyrus Chestnut has risen to be one of the most esteemed and productive of jazz pianists. Journeys
makes 16 recordings under his name. He regularly performs with his trio and is the go-to guy on numerous recording dates and gigs.
Having apprenticed with the incomparable vocalist Betty Carter
, Chestnut's playing displays a style and technical virtuosity that has him compared to jazz legends from Jelly Roll Morton
and Oscar Peterson
to Tommy Flanagan
. Not associated with a particular style, he displays a wide range with his roots in church music, planted by his father, a pastor. Journeys
features his current touring partnersbassist Dezron Douglas
and drummer Neal Smith
turning out an estimable recording that amply shows off his compositional skills in nine originals.
The recording starts with a blast on "Smitty's Joint," with Chestnut's fingers a blur on the keyboard. Douglas adds a spirited bass bit and Smith contributes vigorously. Chestnut then has fun with the disc's only standard, Rodgers and Hart's venerable "Lover," upping the tempo and bringing in boppish filigrees.
Throughout, Chestnut embellishes songs in creative ways. On "Eyes of an Angel," he uses tremolo effects to decorate the simple melody, while "Little Jon" starts with a jive riff and proceeds to a stirring climax.
With the title tune, Chestnut does evoke a journey; a majestic march to Smith's fluttering drums. "Yu's Blues" is a moody late-night blues, with the noirish Douglas' enhancing the feel.
"Goliath" is the album's showpiece, its complex structure beginning quietly, but moving to a mesmerizing climax, amidst Chestnut's swirl of notes, layered over Douglas' steady bass line. This song represents what Chestnut shows throughout Voyage
an ability to surprise, with unexpected turns and provocative phrasing.