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Cyrus Chestnut: Midnight Melodies

Hot on the heels of a half-dozen albums released earlier in the year, Smoke Sessions follows that run up with new titles from three of the most popular and creative pianists in jazz. Like those earlier releases, these too were cut live at New York’s Smoke, a matchbox of an Upper West Side supper club known for its living-room atmosphere and ace mainstream bookings.

Of the three pianists featured on the new titles, Cyrus Chestnut is the only one who chooses to work within the tried-and-true trio format, aligning with bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis. That rhythm battery collaborated for a time with the late John Hicks, and Chestnut, for his first live recording, uses the occasion partly to pay tribute to one of his piano inspirations. Two ripping Hicks numbers, “Two Heartbeats” and “Pocket Full of Blues,” open the show on an uptempo note and another, a nearly 15-minute-long rumination on “Naima’s Love Song”-nearly half of it played solo by Chestnut-serves as the penultimate selection. Lewis contributes two originals and Chestnut only one, the remainder of the set comprising inspired interpretations of Milt Jackson’s “Bags’ Groove,” Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” a pair of Strayhorns and Miles’ “The Theme,” the lattermost largely a vehicle for band intros. The Trane cover is particularly savage, Chestnut’s breakneck run passed along to Lewis, whose manic solo must have had them dancing outside on Broadway.

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