My Father's Hands

Cyrus Chestnut

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My Father's Hands Review

by Matt Collar

With the death of Cyrus Chestnut's 85-year-old father, McDonald Chestnut, in 2021, the pianist lost not only his most passionate supporter but the man who first taught him to play. A self-taught pianist and organist, the elder Chestnut played in church (along with his wife, a choir director). He introduced the younger Chestnut to classical piano, gospel, and traditional spirituals, setting Cyrus on the path to eventually become one of the most accomplished jazz musicians of his generation. With 2022's My Father's Hands, Chestnut pays tribute to his dad, crafting a heartfelt album that touches upon jazz and pop standards, Latin rhythms, and originals. Joining him are two of his longtime associates and esteemed contemporaries, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash. Together, they play with an intuitive warmth and camaraderie. As the album is an homage to his father's memory, one might expect it to be melancholy or sad. However, while there are certainly moments of tearful beauty, as on Chestnut's lyrical rendition of the ballad "But Beautiful," the record is never maudlin and finds him in a lively mood. This is especially true on the opening original "Nippon Soul Connection," a blues swinger in the '60s hard bop tradition. He also dives into Ray Bryant's Latin number "Cubano Chant" and subtly subverts expectations with his bossa nova take on the classic "There Will Never Be Another You." We also get a dusky and introspective reading of the Beatles' "Yesterday." His father's essence is perhaps best captured on "I Must Tell Jesus," a soulful hymn that Chestnut plays solo, infusing the measured gospel melody with warm chordal harmonies that shimmer with joy.

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