June 14, 2024


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Interview with Cyrus Chestnut։ Jazz will evolve, there are certain principles that must never be left out: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Cyrus Chestnut: – I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. My father was the one who exposed me to music.  It is because of him I am who I am today.  I’ve always enjoyed music from an early age.  I started at the age of three.  I would watch my dad play as he played gospel music at home and in church.   I believe it is my destiny to be a musician and my dad was the connection to get me to music.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

CC: – I’m constantly working on my sound.  What do I do to develop? Study and live…

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

CC: – Scales and arpeggios are the foundational concepts for me.  I also have been a disciple of CL Hanon as I use it as a warmup before playing the piano.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

CC: – Life is not the same. One grows and matures. That’s how life goes. As I progress, life constantly teaches me the meaning of the rhythms, melodies, and harmonies I play. It would be impossible in my opinion to stay the same.

JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

CC: – I try my best to center myself for the task at hand. I look to God, who I call the master musician for guidance. I also refer to God as the “piano player”. When the “piano player” shows up, all will be well. A conduit of blessing I wish to be from the creator (God).

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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

CC: – Intellect and Soul must work together. When that happens, the musician and audience are blessed.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

CC: – It’s my desire to have audiences feel better afterward.  I hope my recordings leave a person in a better space after listening and in performance, my intent is to send a person home feeling better than when they first arrive.

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

CC: – There are so many memories but here’s one that comes to mind. I witnessed the transforming power of music. I was at Town Hall in NYC working with Wynton Marsalis when George Wein asked me to play in his place with the “Golden Agers of Jazz”. Al Grey, Britt Woodman, and Buddy Tate was on the front line. Eddie Jones played bass and Jackie Williams played drums. We played “Jumpin at the Woodside”. Buddy Tate walked onstage with a cane and when the music finished, he bowed and strutted off of stage as if there was nothing wrong with him. I saw firsthand the transforming power of music.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

CC: – The melodies are timeless. The classics can be played and interpreted in todays world. Jazz will evolve. However, there are certain principles that must never be left out. Everybody likes a good groove. If the music is presented honestly, it will draw.  Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach is loved by all and I feel that jazz is also loved by all. Jazz must continue to be presented and presented with no gimmicks or tricks.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

CC: – We are conduits of blessing from the creator (God). As music blesses us, the musician then shares their blessing with those who listen, whether live or on record.

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

CC: – I would like the music business to be more fair. Jazz deserves its place in the world along with pop, rock, hip-hop, and classical music. Jazz deserves to be presented on television equally with the other idioms of music.

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

CC: – It depends … One day I might listen to Glenn Gould, the next day Red Garland. I am starting to do more research on Afro-Cuban music.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

CC: – Peace, love, and good will.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

CC: – There are so many places I would like to go. I would like to go back to the 1400’s in Africa to hear the drums. I would like to track back the concept of swing as I know it has its roots in Africa. I also would like to go back to the early days of bebop just to experience it’s beginnings.

JBN: – So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

CC: – What are your thoughts about the state of jazz?

JBN: – SS: – I have a positive opinion, except for jazz rap. I do not accept that. And in general, there is no shortage of spectators and youth among them at the jazz festivals I organize every year, in Boston – New York, and in Eastern European countries. And if we take into account the daily views of my website more than 69,000, then the condition of Jazz is encouraging, in my opinion. Jazz is my life!!!

JBN: – At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

CC: – It’s my hope that those who read the interview will get better insight into what drives me musically.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Cyrus Chestnut: Jazz Hymns, Catholic Tastes - JazzTimes

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