CJA Network Newsletter Featured Interview
(Cyrus Chestnut has a very impressive
discography producing many recordings with his trio His
latest trio recording is, "Genuine Chestnut". Samples
can be heard here! Cyrus also has played and produced
other many other great CD's notably, "Soul Food" with Christian
McBride, Marcus Printup, Wycliffe Jordan, Gary Bartz,
James Carter and others. He played on another great CD
project with Roy Hargrove, " WIth The Tenors Of Our
Time". We appreciate his commitment to
Christ and jazz! Cyrus has been part of our network for
over 2 years and we are very proud to have him be a
You graduated with honors from Berklee College Of Music.
were there what do you feel was one of the most
memorable lessons you
learned about jazz?
C. While at Berklee, I learned
that I had to play with power and
conviction. Jazz never stays still. You always had to
2) Who are some of your major influences in Jazz
C. That is a very difficult
question because there are so many
influences for different reasons. I would have to start
from Jelly Roll Morton, move into Fats Waller, go to Bud
Powell along with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and so
on and so on. I feel it necessary to check the history
of jazz but not be a prisoner to it.
3) Yes, and a hearty, “amen” to that statement about
the history of jazz! What
jazz pianists are you listening to these days?
C. Tommy Flanagan, Ray Bryant,
4) Wow, those are definitely all great jazz pianists!
But let’s get back to you Cyrus! You have said that when
you and your trio plays in concert that you
are, “trying to bring the spirit of joy to as many
places as possible”. Explain further how growing up in
church has had a major impact on your music.
C. The church, Jesus Christ is
the foundation of who I am. As I live
each day, I learn more how important learning and living
principles that Jesus taught is so important. As I have
by God with this gift of music, I wish to be a blessing
Being a good servant (like Jesus was) is very important
to me. I have
been given a unique song filled with unique melodies
harmonies and it is my duty to share what God has given
to me with
others and not keep it to myself.
5) (Yes, I am with you all the way about trying to,
“live out” the principals that Jesus taught in every day
life!) You have such a great feel for swing…did you
learn to swing in church?
C. Maybe so...I don't
know. It was just something inside me.
6) What are your thoughts about the spiritual
connection between God,
creativity, and jazz?
C. For me, having no connection
with God is suicide. I believe it all comes from him. It
never and ever will be about Cyrus Chestnut. It's all
about glorifying God.
7) Thanks for giving credit to whom and where the
source of your musical gifts came from! What is one of
your favorite Hymns?
questions...Tough questions..... Let's see... “Sweet
Prayer”, “It Is Well With My Soul” and so on...
8) (And you have recorded so many beautiful piano
renditions of Hymns on your many CD’s! I am so thankful
that you have made it a priority to include hymns in
your recordings!) Some Jazz Historians say that the
roots of jazz music came from the church anyway and that
soulful, “church blues” turned into jazz! And jazz
continues to evolve today in a myriad of ways! In fact,
Jazz is played in churches across America every Sunday!
(A lot of the keyboard players in the black gospel
churches use jazz voicings, harmonic and rhythmic
variations, and they can bring the funk as well!) What
are your thoughts about this?
C. That is true. It is amazing
how gospel has evolved. Many times I
learn some of the coolest stuff by listening to the cats
play in church.
9) There’s quite a few jazz musicians who are Christians
there...who are some that you know?
C. Eric Reed, Neal Smith, Carl
Allen, Todd Williams, Mike Hawkins and
10) I am very familiar with Eric Reed (another
phenomenal jazz pianist) but will have to check out some
of the others you mentioned! Have you ever played jazz
in a church setting?
C. Yes. I have played vespers services. It is very
11) What is one of the most spiritual experiences you
have ever had
while playing music?
C. When the anointing of God
flows it is a powerful experience. You
find yourself doing things quite amazing. I am grateful
that I have
had some of these experiences.
12) Brother, I know exactly what you are talking
about when God’s Spirit gets a hold of you while your
playing and it is absolutely indescribable!!! Let’s talk
about your new CD now! I noticed that besides, “straight
ahead” you have a couple of Latin flavored jazz tunes on
your new CD and other genres. I read a recent remark you
made in a Telarc press release…” I believe that the
hallmark of jazz music is innovation. It’s about
searching for something new, and finding out in the
process who you really are”. Please, elaborate further
on this statement!
C. Betty Carter has always said
that Jazz is about finding out who
you are and sharing that. It is important to keep moving
One must always search and pray for inspiration to share
what God has
laid on his/her heart.
13) I read in another interview you did that you
said, "If I were to
do a record on an electronic piano, it would not be
smooth jazz but a
funk record. It would be the type of funk that when you
listen to it,
you'd be frowning". That’s very funny!!! ( I do think a
funk/jazz CD from Cyrus would be a great thing!! ) Any
plans for doing a funk recording?
C. I love to
groove:-)......Always have and always will. That is
something coming sown the pike and believe me it should
not fit the
14) I also really like the CD you did, “Soul Food”
with horns, ( you
know a little Art Blakely, Horace Silver) Did you take
the band you
had for this CD on the road?(Christian Mcbride, James
Printup, Wycliffe Gordon, and Lewis Nash)
C. Thank you…I am glad you
enjoyed the “Soul Food CD“. But to answer the second
part of your question... no. Those guys
are leaders on their own and have busy schedules.
15) On your new CD, “Genuine Chestnut” both, ”El
Numero Tres and, “Baby
Girls Strut” have a Latin jazz feel CD and offers some
rhythmic twists as well--- did you write these songs?
16) But I also appreciate the straight ahead vibe and
together with swing, gospel, and Latin makes for a very
variety! There are some very beautiful quiet moments on
the CD ( love
the solo piano piece, “Lord I Give Myself To You”) Do
you have words
written for this song?
C. There are words but I do not
have them with me at this time. This
song is one of the many worship and praise songs that
church to church.
17) Such a beautiful melody…I would love to hear a
sax player blow
over those changes! But I love the soft touch you use on
piece…you took me to church on this one! ( We will see
if we can get Cyrus to get us a lead sheet of this
C. I try my best not to operate
in the spirit of Cyrus, but the spirit
18) Why do people call you the "Nutman"?
C. Carl Allen gave me that
name. It's an offshoot of Chestnut. Hence
nut - man
Cyrus, thanks for celebrating your musical gifts and
spreading joy and
spiritual energy with your music and with your life. We
are very proud
to have you be a part of the Christian Jazz Network!
More information on Cyrus can be