From his emergence in the mid-Eighties to the present, pianist Cyrus Chestnut has declared himself a committed stylist completely infatuated with his instrument and the art he’s sworn allegiance to, jazz. Chestnut has consistently shown himself an improviser of rare ingenuity and grace, yet what most distinguishes him from other gifted pianists of our era may be the sheer pleasure that radiates from all that he plays. While the characteristic cheer that Chestnut displays on "Natural Essence" can be attributed to his undiminished vigor and attentiveness, the presence of his notable cohorts also contributes to the leader’s focus. With the dynamic Lenny White on drums and the redoubtable Buster Williams on bass Cyrus & company breathe new life and vitality into that most venerable of jazz ensemble formats, the piano trio.
The argument will forever rage, but Memphis, Tennessee, is as much the fountainhead of rock ’n’ roll as is Cleveland, Ohio. Whilst the north had Alan Freed as its turntable champion, the south was blessed with the madcap deejay, Dewey Phillips. Chances are, ole Dewey would have played most of the 75 titles that go to make up Raunchy Sugar on his Red Hot and Blue show that aired over WHBQ in Memphis.During the 1950s the city was alive with labels, record hops, musicians and the general chaos that goes hand in hand with the big beat. The geographical lie of the land helped a great deal, because the city was central to so many rural areas that harboured musical talent and style. Carl Perkins and Carl Mann gravitated to the area from Jackson, Tennessee, Billy Riley and Conway Twitty did the same from Arkansas, and Elvis Presley hit the trail from Mississippi in order to soak up some of that unique Shelby County action. Outside of Sam Phillips’ legendary Sun Records, the labels included such names as Hi, Cover, Fernwood, Meteor, Vaden Moon and Satellite.
As with his previous effort, 2015's A Million Colors in Your Mind, pianist Cyrus Chestnut's second Highnote release, 2016's Natural Essence, finds him communing with two veteran artists for a deeply heartfelt and swinging session. Whereas last time Chestnut was joined by bassist David Williams and drummer Victor Lewis, here he has conscripted the talents of bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White. Both Williams and White are industry icons with decades of playing experience and credits with such luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, Tony Williams, McCoy Tyner, and many others.