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Cyrus Chestnut: Realizing the Vision

Cyrus Chestnut

One of the highlights of last summer’s Montreal Jazz Festival was the engaging, swinging duets performed by Cyrus Chestnut and his pianistic colleague Benny Green. The two struck an instant rapport on this, their first, encounter. In the intimate setting of Salle de Gesu, an acoustically brilliant space located in an ancient-looking church in the heart of this sprawling urban festival, they carried on in that very elegant and grand tradition of Oscar Peterson and Wynton Kelly. This strictly ballads-and-standards gig was but one side of Chestnut’s musical makeup, and certainly one he holds dear. But while he reveres the tradition, Cyrus is also eager to step outside the confines of Young Lionhood and do something a little different.

“Maybe I try too hard to be different,” says Chestnut, “but it’s important for me to not do the same thing. I don’t like hearing ‘as usual,’ as in ‘You sound good as usual.’ That kind of tells me that I haven’t done anything different. Inasmuch as I appreciate people digging the music, if you hear me once, the next time you hear me my hope is that it will be a little different from what you heard before. If it sounds the same then I’m in trouble.”

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