[30 November 2009]
Any kid who chooses Thelonious Monk’s Greatest Hits as his or her all-important first album purchase will certainly be destined to a life behind the 88 keys. Such is the case of Cyrus Chestnut, a man once hailed as “the best jazz pianist of his generation” by Time. Chestnut has played with a dizzying array of musicians from Isaac Hayes to Bette Midler to Chick Corea to former Alice Cooper drummer Neal Smith (a regular member of his jazz trio) and is revered for his brilliant reinterpretations of the Elvis Presley catalog and the beloved Vince Guaraldi Trio holiday classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas. On Spirit, however, Chestnut goes it solo with a gorgeous performance inspired by his childhood growing up in the church where his parents served as the music directors, delivering soulful, eloquent interpretations of such popular inspirational songs as “Oh How I Love Jesus”, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “All Creatures of Our God and King”. Offsetting the religiosity of Spirit are equally blessed renditions of such secular tunes as Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me”, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, and Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday”. Whether you are a churchgoer or not, any fan of jazz piano will find his or her album collection enriched by owning this gorgeous collection.