Cyrus Chestnut | Kaleidoscope

by Icrom Bigrad

Cyrus Chestnut is back with new album that features arrangements of eight compositions by classical pianists W.A. Mozart, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Eric Satie.  Chestnut has taken classical themes and put them through rigorous transformations of rhythmic and harmonic transformations and pinned them to the jazz idiom, along with his own delicious originals, a highlight of a standard and the unforgettable rock classic “Smoke on the Water.” Together the trio of Cyrus Chestnut, piano; Eric Wheeler, bass; and Chris Beck, drums; create a highly swinging affair and moments of deep and reflective beauty, as one would expect from the indelible talents of Chestnut. His sense of swing is unmatched in today’s jazz talent roster.

The bouncing swing of “Golliwog’s Cakewalk” opens the disc with a joyful melody that exemplifies Chestnut’s joy in playing and gift for writing and playing hip melodies. Wheeler’s solo is filled with his big woody sound as he spins out his melodies with percussive accuracy across the fingerboard. Beck’s drums are supportive during the bass solo without getting in the way. Chestnut’s piano solo is a study in melody and harmony the many colors that can be crated in the hands of a master pianist with impeccable sense of timing and phrasing. Beck’s drum solo is musical and full of life. Chestnut’s compositions have multiple sections and feels, never letting the listener lose focus.

Mozart’s “Turkish Rondo” would certainly bring a smile to the playful composer’s face as Chestnut captures the melodies subtleties and delights, all while swinging with abandon. Chestnut digs in for this solo, with wide expansive arpeggios moving across the keyboard to rhythmically active chordal passages, Chestnut is on fire. The trio navigates feel changes, hits and interacts with focused energy and outstanding accuracy.

This trio honors the beautiful and playful art of the jazz piano trio, keeping it alive as well as bringing in mainstays from the classical era.  With Kaleidoscope the majesty of the jazz tradition continues with honor.

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