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“Pianist Cyrus Chestnut can do it all. Equally adept playing with trios, groups, or alone, he tackles a broad range of styles with both taste and intelligence.”

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Cyrus Chestnut Trio - CD release show for "Journeys"

Pianist-composer Cyrus Chestnut and his trio are set to perform at Regattabar celebrating his latest album, Journeys, his sophomore CD for Jazz Legacy Productions.

The piano trio is hardly a new concept in jazz. Certainly Chestnut has established himself as a giant in that format, through albums stretching back to his 1990 debut Nut and in countless appearances at clubs, concert halls and festivals throughout the world. Even so, Journeys, marks a watershed moment in his ongoing growth as a pianist, composer and bandleader.

The lineup on Journeys is equipped fully for that challenge. Chestnut has played frequently with both Dezron Douglas and Neal Smith, who have also worked together on other projects. They came to the Journeys sessions with specific knowledge of how their combination would work and in peak condition to transform each track into a showpiece of empathetic improvisation within the structure of the tune.

Many of Chestnut's works feature sophisticated chord changes and harmonies. But whether amplifying on the opening motif in the breezy "Flowers on the Terrace" or teasing the gentle tensions which play between major and minor on the waltz-time "Eyes of an Angel," they all stem from a fundamental melodic concept, which illuminates a path for improvisation while also keeping the results open to appreciation at every level of listening.

"I like to construct melodies that tell stories, based on what I've seen, what I feel and what I hear," Chestnut explains. "If I can connect to what I'm playing, then I'll be able to share it. That's why you may think that some of what I do seems simple, but when you get into it, it's not as simple as you think."

Cyrus Chestnut's journey, to borrow his title, remains unfinished. It has taken him from childhood performances on piano at church in Baltimore through formative work with Jon Hendricks, Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Wynton Marsalis and the aforementioned Betty Carter through a catalog of his own albums and collaborations. These range from a gospel collaboration with the spectacular operatic virtuoso Kathleen Battle to celebrations of the Peanuts comic strip and Elvis Presley to his debut on film in Robert Altman's Kansas City.

"This record is about life ... my life, not necessarily as it was but what has yet to be," Chesnut says. "Every piece is a story based on what I've felt or heard. There are introspective stories, stories of fun, stories of brief sadness and always a story of triumph."

But on reflection, he adds, "And it's not just my journey. It's anybody's journey through life, looking forward to your next destination, wherever that is. The journey of life is happy and sad, it's frivolous, it's serious ... It's everything. I hope that people will think of it as something they can listen to and find solace or inspiration, whatever they need."