"I heard my father playing hymns on the piano and I heard
the congregation singing. It's an integral part of me and the music I play.
My whole spirit of joy started right there."
By Robert Smith
CHESTNUT was born in Baltimore, Maryland , USA, on January
17, 1963. He first received musical training from his father, McDonald Chestnut,
at age five. Cyrus first started playing music publicly at Mount Cavalry Star
Baptist Church, aged seven. He received further musical training at the Peabody
Preparatory Conservatory in Baltimore, where he obtained a Certificate in Piano
and Musical Theory. Between 1981 and 1985 Cyrus attended the Berklee College
of Music in Boston, where he was awarded the Eubie Blake Fellowship in 1982,
the Oscar Peterson Scholarship in 1983 and the Quincy Jones Scholarship in 1984,
later graduating with a degree in Jazz composition and arranging. He began his
professional career working with John Hendricks (1986-88), Terence Blanchard
and Donald Harrison (1988-1990), and Wynton Marsalis (1991). In September 1991
he became Betty Carter's pianist, staying with her until 1993. During this early
years he also worked occasionally with Freddie Hubbard, Branford Marsalis, Larry
Coryell, Courtney Pine, Chico Freeman, George Adams, Michael Carvin, Chick Corea,
Joe Williams and Dizzy Gillespie. Highlights of his recording career as a sideman
include Crystal Stair and Black Pearl for CBS, with The Harrison-Blanchard Quintet
(1987 / 1988), For Art's sake and Indian Blues for Candid, with Donald Harrison
(1990 / 1991) and It's not about the melody for Verve, with Betty Carter (1992).
In recent times, Cyrus has worked and recorded with Roy Hargrove (The tenors
of our time, Verve, 1994), Christian McBride (Getting to it, Verve, 1995) and
singer Kathleen Battle (So many Stars, Sony, 1995). His career as a leader started
in 1989 with the self-produced Gospel album There's a brighter day comin', followed
by Japanese Alfa recordings The Nutman speaks and The Nutman Speaks again (1993).
His last recording for Alfa was Another Direction (1994), which received the
Golden award by the prestigious Japanese magazine Swing Journal. This same year
Cyrus signed with Atlantic Records: his first album for them was Revelation,
followed by The dark before dawn (1995). All his recordings have received excellent
reviews and accolades all over the world. Cyrus' piano style, deeply rooted
in the African-American traditions, exhibits a deep knowledge of the history
of Jazz Piano. The influences of Art Tatum, Hank Jones, Red Garland and Tommy
Flanagan are evident in his playing, but he has also absorbed many other musical
concepts, which he is now blending into a mature, extremely lyrical and personal
style. Without any doubt, Cyrus is called to be one of the major forces in the
evolution of Jazz Piano during the 21st century .