Cyrus Chestnut's Berklee Sextet Hits the Road for New York, D.C. Concerts

By
Nick Balkin
May 21, 2013
Cyrus Chestnut's Berklee Sextet. From left, John Lee, drums; JoJo Streater, trumpet; Ido Meshulam, trombone; Cyrus Chestnut, piano; Tabari Lake, bass; and Edmar Colón, saxophones.
Kelly Davidson

Acclaimed jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut is teaming up with students from his alma mater, Berklee College of Music, for upcoming concerts in New York City and at the D.C. Jazz Festival. The performances are Monday, June 10 at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, 10 Columbus Cir #5, New York (tickets), and Wednesday, June 12 at the Hamilton, 600 14th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. (tickets). 

The Berklee students, selected by audition, have worked on Chestnut's tunes throughout the semester in a Cyrus Chestnut's Berklee Sextet course taught by faculty pianist Kevin Harris. The group is: Edmar Colon, saxophones, from Coamo, Puerto Rico; JoJo Streater, trumpet, Camden, New Jersey; Ido Meshulam, trombone, Tel Aviv, Israel; Tabari Lake, bass, Virgin Islands; and John Lee, drums, British Colombia, Canada. 

Chestnut got one of his first big breaks as a Berklee student at an on-campus performance by Betty Carter. When Carter found herself without a piano player, the entire auditorium started chanting "Cyrus! Cyrus!" and he was urged to the stage. She asked him to play "Body and Soul" in G, but he mistakenly played it in C. He made it up to her when she asked him to join her on tour as a member of her trio. Carter advised him to “take chances” and "play things I’ve never heard,” Chestnut says, confirming his already iconoclastic instincts. 

Chestnut honed his craft as a sideman for Carter, Jon Hendricks, Donald Harrison, Terence Blanchard, and Wynton Marsalis, among others. In 1993, he signed with Atlantic Records, releasing such critically acclaimed albums as Revelation (1994), The Dark Before The Dawn (1995), Earth Stories (1996), Blessed Quietness (1996), and Cyrus Chestnut (1998). In 2006, Chestnut made his Telarc debut with the release of Genuine Chestnut. He made his film debut playing a Count Basie inspired character in the Robert Altman film, Kansas City

Chestnut continually tours with his trio, playing jazz festivals, clubs, and concert halls around the world. Joined by bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Neal Smith, he continually uses the trio format to extend, elaborate, and refine the basic conception of the jazz rhythm section.