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Cyrus Chestnut Trio: Journeys

Larry Taylor By

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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 partners—bassist 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.

Track Listing: Smitty's Joint; Lover; Eyes of An Angel; Little Jon; New Light; Journeys; The Flowers On The Terrace; Yu's Blues; In The Still Hours; Goliath.

Personnel: Cyrus Chestnut: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Neal Smith: drums.

Title: Journeys | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Jazz Legacy Productions

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