Cyrus Chestnut: My Father’s Hands review – like Oscar Peterson in his heyday

·1 min read

The Baltimore-born Cyrus Chestnut is a wonderful pianist, rather like Oscar Peterson in his heyday: one of the rare kind who isn’t forever trying to impress you. He doesn’t need to try. Now in his late 50s, he has been playing since, as a small child, he watched his father’s hands “in a passionate relationship with the piano”. His father, McDonald, who played in Baptist churches and was his first teacher, died last year. This album is dedicated to his memory.

Among Chestnut’s many attractive points is his leaning towards melody. These 10 tracks are full of tunes, some composed by him, some already well known, and some that just turn up in the course of playing. His own pieces, especially Thinking About You and Working Out Just Fine, are really attractive, catchy numbers. Of the standards here, But Beautiful, although short, is exactly what its title suggests. Yesterday, very slow with lots of space, some gentle harmonic changes and a few tinkly phrases suggesting birdsong, is quite magical. This is the pianist’s show, of course, but in Peter Washington and Lewis Nash it has one of the best bass and drums teams anywhere.