Saturday, November 02, 2013

Cyrus Chestnut review - NYC Jazz Record

Cyrus Chestnut
Soul Brother Cool

20 years ago pianist Cyrus Chestnut started his streak
of swinging albums for Atlantic Records and has
steadily continued on that path, offering a deft touch
and an ever-present melodic bent. Soul Brother Cool is
an in-the-pocket traipse through ten originals aided by
bassist Dezron Douglas, drummer/producer Willie
Jones III and trumpeter Freddie Hendrix.

There is a mellow sleepiness that pervades much
of the album, opening with a light bounce on “Spicy
Honey” and the title track, both kickstarted by Jones’
kit. This album focuses more on the “cool” than the
“soul brother”, more often veering into the realm of
early ‘60s recordings like Herbie Hancock’s Maiden
Voyage and Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil instead of
the gospel fervor Chestnut has displayed in the past.

Hendrix proves to be a revelation in the small
setting. He digs into telepathic interaction with
Chestnut’s high-register right hand on several melodies
and shines in the solo spotlight. “Piscean Thought”
features sputtering blasts over Chestnut’s vigorous
rumbling while “Intimacy” lets the trumpeter speak in
long phrases amid the band’s spacious support.

The always thoughtful leader has put together an
enjoyable enough set here, with conservative tune
lengths and tempos that hover somewhere in the
middle. “The Raven” is a propulsive exception,
barreling in with a Messengers-esque urgency. Hendrix
runs with it, reaching into the upper register for a
welcome shot of adrenaline. Chestnut keeps it going,
succinctly plucking his disjointed phrases from a
similar range, building into an excitement reminiscent
of the fire that marked his early trio records.

Chestnut’s songwriting follows a logistical rubric
that entertains without challenging listeners too much.
There are plenty of pleasantly engaging moments and
the band is in fine form but overall the proceedings
feel a little too subdued.

Cyrus Chestnut @ NYC Jazz Record

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