There's just no way not to like Cyrus Chestnut. His playing is robust but tasteful, and he plays ballads with a liquid fluency; his original compositions brim with good cheer; he favors middling tempos that neither tempt him to show off excessively nor to bog himself down in extended, self-indulgent elaboration. His first album for the Telarc label showcases all of his strengths. He can take the unlikeliest melodies and make them sound like standards: on this album, he manages to spin equally refined musical gold out of both a schlocky 1970s love ballad (Bread's "If") and a faux folk song turned soul hit (Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"). And he can handle knotty Latin rhythms with offhanded ease (though the rhythmic structure on "Baby Girl's Strut" feels a little bit disorganized). Best of all, he plays gospel tunes with a heartfelt fervor that never descends into sentimentality. Chestnut's own "Mason Dixon Line" is one of the album's high points, a joyful bebop number that makes you hope he'll someday do a whole album of Bud Powell compositions. The album's relentless, midtempo pleasantness makes it easy to stop paying attention by about halfway through, but every time you catch yourself drifting and start listening closely again, you'll notice something else wonderful. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson