Blending contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, and gospel, plus the occasional seasonings of Latin and samba, Chestnut’s style gives him plenty of freedom to explore different emotions, while keeping his music in recognizable form. His “lush chords, playful grace notes, worshipful tremolos and effortless runs up and down the 88s” (Marc Silver, National Public Radio) are sure to impress, but it’s his warm demeanor and irresistible sweetness that make him one of jazz’s most beloved ambassadors.
Chestnut has played with many leaders in the national and international music scene, including Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, Branford Marsalis, Chick Corea, Dizzy Gillespie, Jon Hendricks, and Betty Carter, recording and performing live around the world. An extremely versatile pianist, Chestnut has also collaborated with Vanessa Williams, Brian McKnight, Kathleen Battle, Freddy Cole, Bette Midler, Jimmy Scott, Isaac Hayes, and Kevin Mahogany. His leadership and prowess as a soloist have also led him to be a first-call pianist in larger ensembles including the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, and Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra.
For his concert in Middlebury, Chestnut will be joined by Wheeler, a Washington, DC, native who began studying classical music at the age of 9 at the DC Youth Orchestra Program. At 13, he was accepted into the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, where he began to study jazz music. There, he had the opportunity to travel globally, which greatly influenced his career in music. Wheeler received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Howard University and has worked as a full-time musician and educator in the DC metro area since. He has performed with other notable jazz artists such as Tim Warfield, Wallace Roney, Jimmy Heath, Roy Hargrove, Eric Lewis, Stefon Harris, Terell Stafford, Eddie Henderson, and Mickey Roker.
Rounding out the trio is Williams, a native of Virginia Beach, who began playing drums at the age of 10 at church under the leadership of his grandfather, Pastor Wilbert R. Miller, and his mother, the church’s minister of music. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Williams has worked professionally with master musicians including Larry Willis, Christian McBride, Donald Harrison, and Charles McPherson, in addition to Chestnut. Williams has been privileged to perform for some of the nation’s finest figures, including American statesman Colin Powell, Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford, Alvin Ailey Dance Company’s artistic director Judith Jamison, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and comedian Bill Cosby.
The Cyrus Chestnut Trio will perform on Friday, January 11, at 8 pm, in Concert Hall of the Mahaney Center for the Arts. The Mahaney Center is located on the Middlebury College campus at 72 Porter Field Road, just off Route 30 south. Ample free parking is available. Tickets are $25 for the general public; $20 for Middlebury College faculty, staff, alumni, emeriti, and other ID card holders; and $6 for Middlebury College students. For more information call (802) 443-6433 or go to http://go.middlebury.edu/arts.