"Natural Essence" is the latest recording from pianist Cyrus Chestnut, and with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White, is another reason to regard Chestnut not simply as one of the most formidable pianists in a technical sense, but one of the most imaginative and compelling jazz musicians of today. As Steve Futterman observes in the liner notes, "Chestnut has consistently shown himself as an improvisor of rare ingenuity and grace … [yet distinguished from other gifted pianists by] … the sheer pleasure that radiates from all he plays."
The ebullience that emanates from his playing is immediately evident on the opening interpretation of Joe Henderson's "Mamacita," which also displays the energy and drive offered by Williams and White and followed by a swinging reworking of "It Could Happen To You." Four of the nine performances are originals including two from the leader, and one each by Williams and White. Chestnut's "Faith Amongst The Unknown" has a spiritual underpinning anchored by Williams' ostinato, while his other original "I Remember" has a definite charm about it. White contributed a lovely ballad "Dedication," where Chestnut's impeccable touch and sense of dynamics is mesmerizing with White's use of brushes adding to the performance, while Williams' Toku-Do is a spirited, perky performance.
Chestnut, Williams and White brings a fresh approach with the lively rendition of "I Cover The Waterfront" while the extended treatment of "My Romance" that reflects attention to touch and tonal qualities and his orchestral approach to the piano on a hauntingly beautiful performance. This recording closes with the trio taking off on the Gigi Gyrce classic "Minority, a hard bop performance of irresistible drive and swing. ""Natural Essence" is a superb recording that provides more evidence of Cyrus Chestnut's stature of one of today's premier jazz pianists.
I received a review copy from the record company. This review originally appeared in the July-August 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 367). Here is this master doing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."