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Cyrus Chestnut: The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet

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A certain naturalism and hard-earned grace run through the compositions and playing of Cyrus Chestnut, the Baltimore-bred modern-mainstream player best known for his work as a resourceful solo pianist and dynamic leader of trios. But those qualities shine through again on The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet , his first recording as a leader in that format. Joined by recent triomate Dezron Douglas on bass, tenor and soprano saxophonist Stacy Dillard and drummer Willie Jones III, Chestnut unveils a half-dozen new tunes that make worthy additions to his impressive body of originals.

Gospel-blues shades color several pieces, notably “Annibelle Cousins,” its laidback groove driving a slinky melody sounded by Dillard’s tenor and tagged with a seeming nod to the spiritual “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” The piece, one of the album’s highlights, proceeds with a long open section for Douglas’ melodic solo, punctuated with slides and galloping figures, before opening up for sprawling turns by Dillard and Chestnut. Blues textures also liven the medium-tempo groover “Indigo Blue,” featuring another subtle-to-splashy piano turn, and the slow-moving closer, “Mustard,” characterized by a Kind of Blue feel.

Douglas’ contribution, “What’s Happening,” is a zippy bop gem with well-utilized space for Jones, while Barney Wilen’s opening “No Problem” features a catchy head attached to rhythms that switch from Latin-tinged to swing. Chestnut’s other tunes here-the lovely ballad “Dream,” the soprano-led charmers “Waltz for Gene and Carol” and “Solace”-are similarly invigorated with the help of a group of accomplished players whose sensibilities mesh nicely with the leader’s approach.


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