Cyrus Chestnut

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Cyrus Chestnut
Background information
Born (1963-01-17) January 17, 1963 (age 61)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
GenresJazz, blues
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, producer
Years active1992–present
LabelsAlfa, Evidence, Atlantic, Warner Bros., Telarc, WJ3

Cyrus Chestnut (born January 17, 1963) is an American jazz pianist, composer and producer. In 2006, Josh Tyrangiel, music critic for Time, wrote: "What makes Chestnut the best jazz pianist of his generation is a willingness to abandon notes and play space."[1]

Early life[edit]

Cyrus Chestnut was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1963, the son of McDonald (a retired post-office employee and church pianist) and Flossie (a city social services worker and church choir director).[2] Chestnut began learning the piano at the age of seven, and in his boyhood played at Mount Calvary Baptist Church.[2] By the age of nine,[3] he was studying classical music at the Peabody Institute.[2] In 1985, Chestnut earned a degree in jazz composition and arranging from Boston's Berklee College of Music.[4]

Jazz career[edit]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Chestnut worked with Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, and other bandleaders. He joined the band of jazz vocalist Betty Carter in the early 1990s and appeared on her 1992 album It's Not About the Melody. That same year, he recorded his first albums as a bandleader, The Nutman Speaks and Nut. Chesnut has continued to work and record as a bandleader into the 21st century.

In 2006, Telarc released Genuine Chestnut, his first album for the label. On it he is accompanied by his regular trio of Michael Hawkins, bass and Neal Smith, drums. Additional artists on this session include Russell Malone, guitar and Steven Kroon, percussion. It includes jazz interpretations of some well-known pop numbers of the past half-century, including "If", the early 1970s soft-rock ballad by Bread. "This song has been with me ever since the sixth grade," Chestnut recalled, "I had to play it for my English teacher's wedding. I've played it in many and various contexts. I actually played it in a Top 40 band when I was just out of school. A lot of time has passed, but then recently I just started thinking about it again."[5] Chestnut's own "Mason–Dixon Line" is one of the album's high points, a joyful bebop number.[6]


As leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1992? The Nutman Speaks Alfa Jazz
1992? The Nutman Speaks Again Alfa Jazz
1992 Nut Evidence/Alfa Jazz Trio, with Christian McBride (bass), Carl Allen (drums)
1993 Another Direction Evidence Trio, with Christian McBride (bass), Carl Allen (drums)
1993 Revelations Atlantic Trio, with Christopher J. Thomas (bass), Clarence Penn (drums)
1994 Dark Before the Dawn Atlantic Trio, with Steve Kirby (bass), Clarence Penn (drums)
1995 Earth Stories Atlantic With Eddie Allen (trumpet), Antonio Hart (alto sax), Steve Kirby (bass), Alvester Garnett (drums)
1996 Blessed Quietness Atlantic Solo piano
1997 American Meditation Baybridge Manhattan Trinity+1, with Antonio Hart (alto sax), George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
1998 Cyrus Chestnut Atlantic with James Carter (alto sax), Joe Lovano (tenor sax), Ron Carter (bass), Billy Higgins, Lewis Nash (drums), Anita Baker (vocals)
1998 Make Me a Memory Baybridge Manhattan Trinity+1, with Teodross Avery (tenor, soprano sax), George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
1998 A Love Story M&I Manhattan Trinity+1, with Eric Alexander (tenor sax), George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
2000 A Charlie Brown Christmas Atlantic with Michael Brecker (tenor sax), Kenny Garrett (alto sax), choir
2001 Soul Food Atlantic with Marcus Printup (trumpet), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Gary Bartz (alto sax), James Carter (tenor sax), Stefon Harris (vibraphone), Christian McBride (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
2001 Love Letters M&I Manhattan Trinity, with George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
2002 You Are My Sunshine Warner Bros. Trio, with Michael Hawkins (bass), Neal Smith (drums)
2002 Misty M&I Manhattan Trinity, with George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
2003 Alfie M&I Manhattan Trinity, with George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
2004 Charade M&I Manhattan Trinity, with George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
2005 Genuine Chestnut Telarc Some tracks trio, with Michael Hawkins (bass), Neal Smith (drums); some tracks quartet with Russell Malone (guitar) added; some tracks quartet with Steven Kroon (percussion) added; some tracks quintet
2006 The Gentle Rain M&I Manhattan Trinity, with George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
2007 Cyrus Plays Elvis Koch Trio, with Dezron Douglas (bass), Neal Smith (drums)
2007 Cyrus Chestnut Trio - Black Nile M&I Trio, with Buster Williams (bass), Al Foster (drums)
2008 Sunflower - Henry Mancini Songbook M&I Manhattan Trinity, with George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
2008 Spirit Jazz Legacy Solo piano
2010 Cyrus Chestnut Trio - Journeys Jazz Legacy Trio, with Dezron Douglas (bass), Neal Smith (drums)
2010 The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet WJ3 Quartet, with Stacy Dillard (tenor and soprano saxophones), Dezron Douglas (bass), Willie Jones III (drums)
2011 Cyrus Chestnut Trio - Moonlight Sonata Venus Trio, with Dezron Douglas (bass), Neal Smith (drums)
2013 Soul Brother Cool WJ3 Quartet, with Freddie Hendrix (trumpet), Dezron Douglas (bass), Willie Jones III (drums)
2014 Midnight Melodies Smoke Sessions Trio, with Curtis Lundy (bass), Victor Lewis (drums)
2014 A Million Colors in Your Mind Highnote Trio, with David Williams (bass), Victor Lewis (drums)
2015 Natural Essence Highnote Trio, with Buster Williams (bass), Lenny White (drums)
2017 There's a Sweet, Sweet Spirit Highnote Most tracks trio, with Buster Williams (bass), Lenny White (drums); some tracks quartet, with Steve Nelson (vibraphone)
2018 Kaleidoscope Highnote Trio, with Eric Wheeler (bass), Chris Beck (drums)
2022 My Father's Hands Highnote Trio, with Peter Washington (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)

As sideman[edit]

With Gerald Albright

With Carl Allen

With Carl Allen & Rodney Whitaker

With Tiffany Austin

  • Unbroken (Con Alma, 2018)

With Gary Bartz

  • The Blues Chronicles: Tales of Life (Atlantic, 1996)

With Kathleen Battle

  • So Many Stars (Sony, 1995)

With Alexander Berenson

  • Take Me With You (Butman Music, 2010)

With Dee Dee Bridgewater

With Jeri Brown

  • Fresh Start (Justin Time, 1996)

With Ronnie Burrage

  • Shuttle (Sound Hills, 1993)

With Ann Hampton Callaway

With Betty Carter

With James Carter

With Michael Carvin

  • Between Me and You (Muse, 1989)
  • Revelation (Muse, 1991)

With Freddy Cole

  • Always (Fantasy, 1995)
  • A Circle of Love (Fantasy, 1996)
  • To The Ends of the Earth (Fantasy, 1997)
  • Le Grand Freddy (Fantasy, 1999)

With Carla Cook

  • It's All About Love (MaxJazz, 1999)
  • Dem Bones (MaxJazz, 2001)
  • Simply Natural (MaxJazz, 2002)

With Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet

With Dee Daniels

  • State of the Art (Criss Cross, 2013)
  • Intimate Conversations (Origin, 2014)

With Michael Dease

  • Grace (Jazz Legacy, 2010)

With Dr. John and the Donald Harrison Band

  • Funky New Orleans (Metro, 2000)

With Cynthia Felton

  • Afro Blue: The Music of Oscar Brown Jr. (CD Baby, 2012)
  • Freedom Jazz Dance (CD Baby, 2012)
  • Save Your Love For Me (CD Baby, 2014)

With The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band

  • I'm BeBoppin' Too (Half Note, 2009)

With Jimmy Greene

With Mark Gross

  • Blackside (Jazz Legacy, 2012)

With Roy Hargrove

With Donald Harrison

  • Full Circle (Sweet Basil, 1990)
  • For Art's Sake (Candid, 1991)
  • Indian Blues (Candid, 1995)
  • Big Chief (Past Perfect, 2002)

With Vincent Herring

With Laird Jackson

  • Quiet Flame (Venus, 2016)

With Denise Jannah

  • I Was Born In Love With You (Blue Note, 1995)
  • A Heart Full of Music (Timeless, 2000)

With George Kawaguchi

  • Between Me and You (Muse, 1989)
  • Revelation (Muse, 1991)
  • Plays Herbie Hancock (King Japan, 2004)

With The Keystone Quartet

  • A Love Story (32 Jazz, 2000)

With Kevin Mahogany

With Wynton Marsalis

With Christian McBride

With Bette Midler

With Charnett Moffett

  • Music from Our Soul (Motéma Music, 2017)

With George Mraz

  • Bottom Lines (Milestone, 1997)
  • Duke's Place (Milestone, 1999)

With Roy Nathanson

  • Fire at Keaton's Bar & Grill (Six Degrees, 2000)

With Chiara Pancaldi

  • I Walk a Little Faster (Challenge Records, 2015)

With Madeleine Peyroux

With Morris Robinson

  • Going Home (Decca, 2007)

With Jackie Ryan

  • Doozy (Open Arts, 2008)

With Ameen Saleem

  • The Groove Lab (Jando Music, 2013)

With Andy Scott

  • Angels (Jazz Legacy, 2015)

With Jimmy Scott

  • Mood Indigo (Milestone, 2000)
  • Moon Glow (Milestone, 2003)

With Marilyn Scott

  • Every Time We Say Goodbye (Venus, 2008)

With Bud Shank

  • By Request: Bud Shank Meets the Rhythm Section (Milestone, 1997)

With Jae Sinnett

  • Blue Jae (Valley Vue, 1992)
  • House and Sinnett (Positive Music, 1994)
  • Listen (Heart Music, 1997)

With Billy Taylor

  • Taylor Made at the Kennedy Center (Kennedy Center, 2005)

With Joris Teepe and The Don Braden Quintet

  • Pay As You Earn (Mons, 1995)

With Tim Warfield

  • Cool Blue (Criss Cross, 1995)
  • A Whisper in the Midnight (Criss Cross, 1996)
  • Gentle Warrior (Criss Cross, 1998)
  • Jazz Is (Criss Cross, 2002)
  • Eye of the Beholder (Criss Cross, 2013)

With Sadao Watanabe

  • Remembrance (Verve, 1999)

With Kim Waters

  • Tribute (Warlock, 1992)

With Rodney Whitaker

  • Children of the Light (Koch, 1996)

With Phil Wilson's Rainbow Band

  • Latin American Tour (Shiah, 1985)

With Steve Wilson

  • Step Lively (Criss Cross, 1995)

With Joh Yamada

  • Bluestone (Milestone, 1999)

With Dave Young

  • Two by Two, Volume Two (Justin Time, 1996)
  • Side by Side (Justin Time, 1996)


Year Title Genre Label Notes
1994 Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents: The Fire of the Fundamentals Jazz Sony with Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Barron, Betty Carter, Chris Thomas, Christian McBride, et al.
1999 Essential Young Lions Vol. 1 Jazz Hip-O with Roy Hargrove, Larry Goldings Trio, Stefon Harris, Donald Harrison, The Benny Green Trio, Stefon Harris, et al.
2000 Piano Grand! A Smithsonian Celebration classical, jazz and rock & roll Sony with Diana Krall, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Dave Brubeck, Billy Joel, Jerry Lee Lewis, Robert Levin, et al.
2003 Torch: A Six Degrees Collection of Modern Torch Songs Jazz Six Degrees with Cassandra Wilson, Bugge Wesseltoft, Roy Nathanson, Sylk 130, Elvis Costello, dZihan & Kamien, Sarah Cracknell, et al.
2007 Funky Jazz Party, Vol. 2: Love Jams Jazz Atlantic with Anita Baker, Steve Cole, Wayman Tisdale, Gerald Albright, Brian Culbertson, Rick Braun, et al.


  1. ^ Tyrangiel, Josh (March 19, 2006). "Music: 5 Great New Albums". Archived from the original on May 12, 2006. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Leonard Feather, Ira Gitler (April 1, 2007). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-988640-1.
  3. ^ "Biography", Cyrus Chestnut website.
  4. ^ [1]Prominent Berklee Alumni at the Wayback Machine (archived August 21, 2007)
  5. ^ "Concord Music Group". Archived from the original on February 25, 2007. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  6. ^ "Genuine Chestnut by Cyrus Chestnut". February 28, 2006. Retrieved May 22, 2015.

External links[edit]