Cyrus Chestnut in Berlin: From Duke Jordan to Lionel Richie

Cyrus Chestnut @ A-Trane
Cyrus Chestnut at Berlin’s A-Trane on Tuesday night.

Pianist Cyrus Chestnut‘s last visit to Berlin was almost 20 years ago. It is hard to believe because here is a musician that is instantly recognizable even though he incorporates many styles and genres in his playing. Or maybe that’s exactly why! From Rag to Bop, from Gospel and Blues and Soul to Classical, whatever he touched seemed to work during his 80 minute set on Tuesday night at Berlin’s A-Trane.

Opening with a fleeting “No Problem”, a song by pianist Duke Jordan which he recorded for a mid 70s SteepleChase album (“Flight to Denmark” which also included bassist Mads Vinding who accompanied Cyrus on stage with drummer Jonathan Blake), it seemed as though Cyrus had ten fingers on his right hand. His hands were literally flying over the keys it was almost dizzying just watching it. And then with the Jimmy van Heusen standard “Darn That Dream”, he only slightly touched the piano and kept the melody rolling with an elegant command.

He also included a nice tribute to the late great Clark Terry with his interpretation of “Brotherhood of Man”, a Frank Loesser song which Oscar Peterson recorded with Terry in a definitive version back in 1964. Cyrus’ way of playing it included kicking away the keys and shaping the song into a burning workout.

Mads Vinding during the Cyrus Chestnut Trio's performance at Berlin's A-Trane on Tuesday night.
Mads Vinding during the Cyrus Chestnut Trio’s performance at Berlin’s A-Trane on Tuesday night.

Cyrus didn’t shy away from playing a Lionel Richie tune as well. “Hello” started out as a modern classical piece for solo piano before the band chimed in building it into a soulful groover which only hinted at parts of the melody. The triteness of the original was instantly forgotten. There was also a fantastic solo spot for bassist Mads Vinding (who has played with just about everybody from Quincy Jones to Chet Baker, from Herbie Hancock to Stan Getz) on a song written by drummer Willie Jones III and drummer Jonathan Blake had his shining moment opening an original Chestnut composition.

One of several highlights of the show was an outstanding “In A Sentimental Mood” which was delivered with no gimmicks and had its Tommy Flanagan/Hank Jones moments. A real treat! Don’t miss his Trio performances at New York’s Jazz Standard June 26-29 and Smoke Jazz Club July 18-19.



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