“The show was absolutely fantastic. I talked to dozens of people who were floored by the show” – Cory Weeds, Vancouver Jazz Festival, June 28, 2017
“Cyrus’ gig in Victoria was fantastic. The audience loved it! Long overdue…” – Victoria Jazz Festival, June 2017
Virtuosic and playful, pianist Cyrus Chestnut’s hard swinging, soulful sounds have become a staple in the jazz community. Blending contemporary jazz, traditional jazz and gospel, plus the occasional seasonings of Latin and samba, Chestnut gives himself plenty of freedom to explore different emotions, while keeping his music in recognizable form. Add to that his apparent ease on the piano, and you’ve got a musician who really does know how to put a smile on your face.
Born in 1963, Chestnut started his musical career at the age of three, playing piano at the Mount Calvary Star Baptist Church at the age of five in his hometown of Baltimore, MD. In the fall of 1981, Cyrus began jazz education in Boston, MA at the Berklee College of Music, where he earned a degree in jazz composition and arranging.
After Berklee, Cyrus began further honing his craft as a sideman with some of the legendary and leading musicians in the business. Some of these great people include; Jon Hendricks, Michael Carvin, Donald Harrison, Terence Blanchard, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Delfeayo Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller, Regina Cater, Chick Corea, Jimmy Heath, James Moody, Joe Williams, Isaac Hayes, Kathleen Battle, Betty Carter and, Dizzy Gillespie just to name a few. Even the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, asked him to join her on one of her Christmas Concerts in 2013. His association with Betty Carter, which began in 1991 significantly affected his outlook and approach to music, confirming his already iconoclastic instincts. Carter advised him to “take chances” and play things I’ve never heard,” Chestnut says.
As Cyrus was absorbing experiences as a sideman, he was also developing as a leader, recording and playing live around the world. There’s a Brighter Day Coming was his first self-released album, followed by The Nutman Speaks (1992), The Nutman Speaks Again (1992), Another Direction (1993). The records received the prestigious Gold Disk award from Japan’s leading jazz publication, Swing Journal. In the fall of 2014, Cyrus was appointed professor of Jazz Piano and Improvisation at Howard University in Washington, DC. In 2015, he was added to the Yamaha Artist Roster.
In November 2015 Cyrus got together with two other giants of jazz, Buster Williams on bass and Lenny White on drums and recorded a beautiful collection of classic trio material. ‘Natural Essence’ (Highnote Records) was released in May 2016 and was followed by an extended European tour.
Cyrus’s latest CD release with Highnote Records ‘There’s A Sweet, Sweet Spirit’ has just been released.
Cyrus has also recently started performing a new program, African Reflections, inspired by a visit to Senegal. Video and more information can be found here: African Reflections.