Listen Up: Wednesday, September 10, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Cyrus Chestnut

You Are My Sunshine (Warner Bros.)

By Michael Pellecchia

A leading jazz pianist since the mid-1980s, Cyrus Chestnut began his solo career in 1994, after gaining recognition for his two-year stint with vocalist Betty Carter. Heís made many albums since then, most of them sparkling with good feeling. With his trio and his new album You Are My Sunshine, he does indeed emanate light and joy from a soulful heart. That incandescent quality goes straight to his fingers, into the piano, and out as music. The main rhetorical voice is that of gospel testimony, exhorting hope and good cheer.

With his usual trio of Michael Hawkins on bass and Neal Smith on drums, Chestnut channels many classic piano styles into his own gospel-blues-swing-funk gumbo. Everyone from Eddie Heywood to Ramsey Lewis to Vince Guaraldi to Ahmad Jamal to Andre Previn could find themselves in this music. So could any listener with a love for the past of jazz and pop piano.

From the personal to the archetypal is not so far at all when youíre in Cyrus Chestnut territory. Behind all these well-trod musical footsteps is a church feel elevated by musical sensitivity and precision. He started playing in a Baptist church at age five and went to Peabody Conservatory Prep and Berklee School of Music. So the pianist has a clear view of himself. Most of the tracks are sacred, inspired tunes, along with a few standards, such as the title cut and Cole Porterís ďItís All Right With Me.Ē Chestnut deserves praise and more exposure for this music, which sounds like itís drawn from a deep well of character. The production by Chestnut and fellow jazz pianist Marcus Roberts is crystalline and tasteful. Donít get this album looking for new sounds or adventure ó just inspiration.


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