National Artist Spotlight: Cyrus Chestnut Jazz Pianist

Cyrus Chestnut 5

“I believe the ability to play music is a gift from God and every time I play, I’m thankful. Every time I sit down to play, for me, is worship and expression,”-Cyrus Chestnut

Born on January 17, 1963, in Baltimore, MD; son of McDonald (a retired post office employee and church organist) and Flossie (a city social services worker and church choir director) Soulful jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut might just be proof positive of the impact that music has on babies in the womb. Either that, or a life in music was simply in his blood. Chestnut’s father, a postal employee and the son of a church minister, was the official organist for the local church in Baltimore, Maryland, where Chestnut grew up. Young Cyrus’s home was filled with the sounds of the gospel music that his church-going parents played in their home, along with jazz records by artists such as Thelonius Monk and Jimmy Smith. Chestnut has said that the roots of his love of music began there, and to this day, Chestnut’s ties to the gospel church remain constant. “Growing up, gospel music was what I heard in the house,” Chestnut told Down Beat magazine.

As a boy Chestnut reached for the piano keys before he could walk, so his father began teaching the earnest three-year-old to play the piano. One of the first songs young Cyrus learned was “Jesus Loves Me.” Before long, seven-year-old Cyrus was playing piano in the family church, and by age nine he was promoted to church pianist at Mt. Calvary Star Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.
Chestnut, who became known for his improvisational skills and unique jazz-gospel and bop style, has credited his abilities to those formative years when he played at church. And while Chestnut’s roots in gospel stemmed from his life at home and in the church, his passion for jazz was born not long thereafter. With his two-dollar allowance, young Chestnut purchased his first album, Thelonious Monk’s Greatest Hits, simply because he liked the album cover, and thus the young pianist’s love of jazz began.Cyrus Chestnut 1

At age nine Chestnut was enrolled in the prep program at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. He later headed to Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he earned a degree in jazz composition and arranging. Before graduating from Berklee in 1985, Chestnut had received the Eubie Blake fellowship in 1982, the Oscar Peterson scholarship in 1983, and the Quincy Jones scholarship in 1984. In his free time Chestnut studied the history of music and the work of such masters as pianists Bud Powell, Wynton Kelly, and Hank Jones, and the work of gospel artists Clara Ward, Charles Taylor, and Shirley Caesar. In school he studied classical music, writing and performing. A Warner Jazz website article on Chestnut quoted the New York Times, which described Chestnut as a “highly intelligent improviser with one of the surest senses of swing in jazz.”

After graduating from Berklee, Chestnut went on to work with jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks from 1986-88, and trumpeter Terrence Blanchard and saxophonist Donald Harrison from 1988-90, before joining jazz legend Wynton Marsalis in 1991. But Chestnut really cut his teeth in the business when, one day at Berklee, jazz vocalist Betty Carter arrived to perform. When the famous singer found herself without a piano player, the entire auditorium erupted with suggestions for Chestnut to fill in, and he was ushered to the stage. Terrified and nervous, Chestnut took the stage, but when Carter asked him to play Body and Soul in the key of G, Chestnut mistakenly played it in C. “I told myself that someday I would make it up to her,” Chestnut told Berklee Today. After a short stint playing aboard a Caribbean cruise ship in 1985 with a band that included Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams, and Tommy Flanagan, Chestnut graduated from Berklee. In 1991 Cyrus got his chance to repay Carter when he went on the road for two years as the pianist for the Betty Carter Trio. “She wanted you to create a mode of creating, not re-creating,” Chestnut told the Santa Fe New Mexican. He has often said that playing with Carter was a form of graduate school.Cyrus Chestnut 2

For Chestnut, there has always been a deep connection between jazz and God. He believes jazz to be a religious musical genre. “I believe the ability to play music is a gift from God and every time I play, I’m thankful. Every time I sit down to play, for me, is worship and expression,” he told Down Beat magazine. Fitting this connection, the title of Chestnut’s major label debut album was Revelations, which he released in 1994 at the age of 30. The album was voted Best Jazz Album by the Village Voice and soared on the charts, outselling expectations for piano trio recordings. Prior to that, Chestnut had broken out of his role as an accompanist and band member by forming and leading his own trio. Chestnut’s trio recorded two albums on the Japanese label Alfa Jazz, The Nutman Speaks and The Nutman Speaks Again, in 1992. He also recorded Nut in 1992 and Another Direction in 1993, both on Evidence.

In 1994 Chestnut released Dark Before the Dawn for Atlantic Records. “It’s a musical story about me. It’s about my life experiences, how I felt at the time, my reactions. Life is not one-sided. A lot of different things happen in life,” Chestnut told the Philadelphia Inquirer. The album debuted in the sixth spot on the Billboard Jazz Charts. The very next year, Chestnut released the critically acclaimed Earth Stories, for which he composed nine of the CD’s eleven tracks.

Chestnut has earned a reputation for his skillful versatility, his ability for blending sounds and for unabashedly bringing gospel into the club performances he gives. And despite his sense of playful showmanship, he takes jazz very seriously and believes that jazz has great staying power. “Just as Bruce Springsteen has that ability to appeal to a mass audience, I have a vision that jazz can do the same. You can’t underestimate the power of this music,” Chestnut told the St. Petersburg Times.
Throughout his career, Chestnut has worked with an array of artists, including saxophonists James Carter, Donald Harrison and Joe Lovano; trumpeters Roy Hargrove and Freddie Hubbard; jazzman Chick Corea, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, and opera singer Kathleen Battle, with whom he tours occasionally since 1995. More recently Chestnut has collaborated with vocalists Vanessa Williams, Anita Baker, Bette Midler, Isaac Hayes, and Brian McKnight. In 2000 he collaborated with Williams, McKnight and the Boys Choir of Harlem on an updated version of Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.Cyrus-Chestnut-Panorama

Chestnut’s 2001 release, Soul Food, provided a showcase for his versatility. The album is a blend of jazz, classical, gospel, and R&B. In 2003 Chestnut released You Are My Sunshine on Warner Brothers Records. Prior to that, Chestnut released a solo piano album, Blessed Quietness: Collection of Hymns, Spirituals, and Carols in 1996, and followed with Cyrus Chestnut in 1998.

The New York Daily News once heralded Chestnut as the rightful heir to Bud Powell, Art Tatum and Erroll Garner. In an interview on National Public Radio (NPR) for All Things Considered, Chestnut remarked, “If I can send one person home after a performance feeling better than when they arrived, then I’ve done my job, and I sleep good at night.” To this day, Chestnut attends church every Sunday, and whenever he can he plays in the local church in Brooklyn, New York, where he lives with his family. He told CBS News, “If I’m not working, you’ll find me in somebody’s church.” Chestnut continually tours with his trio, playing live at jazz festivals around the world as well as clubs and concert halls. His leadership and prowess as a soloist has also led him to be a first call for the piano chair in many big bands including the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.

For more information about Cyrus Chestnut click the links below:



Like Tulsa Jazz on Facebook:

Follow Tulsa Jazz on Twitter:




Angie Cockrell and Mike Leland Performing at Bluestone Steakhouse October 14th and 15th


It has been and continues to be an honor for us at Tulsa Jazz to work with and represent Angie Cockrell. She is warm, genuine, professional and a fabulous singer, we look forward to many more years together.

You have the opportunity to see this wonderful lady perform with the incomparable Mike Leland every Wednesday and Thursday from 6 pm-9 pm, at Bluestone Steakhouse and Seafood.
Angie and Mike will be  performing some of your most beloved traditional jazz tunes, and treat you to some of their favorites while you partake of Bluestones delicious menu offerings and extensive wine selection.


Angie Cockrell and Mike Leland

Good food, good wine, and good music, all in the wonderful atmosphere that is Bluestone, sounds like the ingredients for a fantastic evening…Enjoy.


John Taylor, President


These shows are a Tulsa Jazz Music Group Production.


Wednesday October 14th 2015  6 pm to 9 pm

Thursday October 15th, 2015  6 pm to 9 pm

Location: 10032 S Sheridan Rd, Tulsa, OK 74133

Phone: 918-296-9889

Angie’s Website:

Angie’s Facebook Page

Bluestone Steakhouse Website:

Like Tulsa Jazz on Facebook:

Follow Tulsa Jazz on Twitter:



National Artist Spotlight: Wynton Marsalis



Wynton Marsalis Performing at The Tulsa Performing Arts Center Friday Oct 2nd!

Wynton Marsalis is an internationally acclaimed musician, composer, bandleader, educator and a leading advocate of American culture. He is the world’s first jazz artist to perform and compose across the full jazz spectrum from its New Orleans roots to bebop to modern jazz. By creating and performing an expansive range of brilliant new music for quartets to big bands, chamber music ensembles to symphony orchestras, tap dance to ballet, Wynton has expanded the vocabulary for jazz and created a vital body of work that places him among the world’s finest musicians and composers.

Early Years: Wynton was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 18, 1961, to Ellis and Dolores Marsalis, the second of six sons. At age eight Wynton performed traditional New Orleans music in the Fairview Baptist Church band and at 14 he performed with the New Orleans Philharmonic, New Orleans Symphony Brass Quintet, New Orleans Community Concert Band, New Orleans Youth Orchestra, New Orleans Symphony, various jazz bands and with the popular local funk band, the Creators. At age 17 Wynton became the youngest musician ever to be admitted to Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center. Despite his youth, he was awarded the school’s prestigious Harvey Shapiro Award for outstanding brass student. Wynton moved to New York City to attend Juilliard in 1979.

In 1980 Wynton seized the opportunity to join the Jazz Messengers to study under master drummer and bandleader Art Blakey. It was from Blakey that Wynton acquired his concept for bandleading and for bringing intensity to each and every performance. In the years to follow Wynton performed with Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and countless other jazz legends.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The San Francisco Examiner stated, “Marsalis’ orchestral arrangements are magnificent. Duke Ellington’s shadings and themes come and go but Marsalis’ free use of dissonance, counter rhythms and polyphonics is way ahead of Ellington’s mid-century era.” Wynton extended his achievements in Blood On The Fields with All Rise, an epic composition for big band, gospel choir, and symphony orchestra which was performed by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Kurt Masur along with the Morgan State University Choir and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (December 1999).

Marsalis collaborated with Ghanaian master drummer Yacub Addy to create Congo Square, a groundbreaking composition combining elegant harmonies from America’s jazz tradition with fundamental rituals in African percussion and vocals (2006). For the anniversary of the Abyssinian Baptist Church’s 200th year of service, Marsalis blended Baptist choir cadences with blues accents and big band swing rhythms to compose Abyssinian 200: A Celebration, which was performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Abyssinian’s 100 voice choir before packed houses in New York City (May 2008).

In the fall of 2009 the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra premiered Marsalis’ composition Blues Symphony. Marsalis further expanded his repertoire for symphony orchestra with Swing Symphony, premiered by the renowned Berlin Philharmonic in June 2010. The New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Barbican have all signed on to perform Swing Symphony…

Click the link below to continue reading about Winton Marsalis:


Additional Information:





Like Tulsa Jazz on Facebook:

Follow Tulsa Jazz on Twitter:


Eric Himan Performs at Main St Tavern for “Wine and Jazz Night” September 16th


Eric Himan sings Jazz and many of his favorites at Main St Tavern

GRACEFULLY by Award-Winning nationally touring artist, Eric Himan, brings the songwriter/acoustic guitarist to a brand new place: the piano bench.

After releasing and selling his music (over 40,000 cds sold independently) through his record label, Thumbcrown Records, licensing original music to MTV, E!, and heavy rotation on satellite radio (SiriusXM’s The Coffeehouse), Eric delivers his latest, GRACEFULLY, his most ambitious album to date. Well known for writing and performing on the acoustic guitar, GRACEFULLY is the first full album written and recorded with Eric on piano. A horn section, a new element in his recordings, was brought in and arranged by saxophonist, Ryan Tedder, with Dave Johnson on trumpet. This album has one last feature: the album was fully funded through his listeners via the crowd-sourcing website, PledgeMusic. Eric was able to bring in some heavy hitters such as drummer, Brandon Holder (current drummer for Leon Russell) and bassist Matt Hayes (Jacob Fred Jazz Odessey, Wayne Newton) thanks to the support of his many generous listeners. This album was recorded in Eric’s hometown of Tulsa, OK by Rockwell Ripperger (of the platinum selling band, Stephen Speaks) and Brandon Holder, mixed by Ripperger, and mastered by the grammy-award winning Chris Bellman (Alanis Morissette, Ani DiFranco, Katy Perry) at Bernie Grundman Mastering in Los Angeles, CA.Gracefully eric h

A collection of songs gathered throughout the past three years, GRACEFULLY holds elements of pop, soul, rock, R&B, and even a bit of a latin feel with its entrance, RED HOT TEARS. WAITING FOR THUNDER inspired by the story of Malala Yousafzai, the 14 year old Pakistani student who was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education, brings the rock genre into light on GRACEFULLY. Other highlights of the album are the gospel tinged, HOW CAN YOU SLEEP?, bringing back the horn section for a swinging tale of love on its way out, the pop-driven-perfect-for-a-sunday-morning, EVERYTHING TO YOU, and the title track, GRACEFULLY, a tribute to Eric’s grandmother, Grace, who raised Eric with his grandfather and father. Grace who passed away last Fall at the age of 97, led a full life of motherhood, a careers in photography, and at one time, a colorist for DC Comics in the 1930’s. Smiling from the cover art of this new record, Grace gives the stamp of approval for the grandson she encouraged artistically as Eric puts it ” to live life like you taught me, GRACEFULLY”.

More accolades for Eric Himan:

  • As heard on XM/Sirius The Coffee House (recorded live sessions for them, as well)
  • Recently added to HOLLISTER’s In-Store Playlist nationally
  • As seen in The Huffington Post, American Songwriter Magazine,Towleroad, Out Magazine, and The Advocate
  • Opening Tour dates this spring for Ani DiFranco and Leon Russell.
  • Opened for Patty Griffin, India.Arie, Leon Russell, Edwin McCain amongst others.
  • Featured at Songwriter’s Festivals around the country including the 30A Songwriter’s Festival alongside Ani DiFranco, Loudon Wainwright III, Matthew Sweet and more.
  • Endorsed by Fender Guitars
  • Winner of The Singer/Songwriter Awards (WeAreListening.Org)
  • Licensed songs to E!, MTV, Vh1, and The Discovery Channel.
  • *Best of the Best-Okahoma Magazine three years in a row
  • *Winner-Artist of the Year/Best Male Vocalist-Urban Tulsa Weekly’s Music Awards

Eric’s Latest Album:

playingcards-600x600 eric h

This show is a TulsaJazz.Com Production

Additional Show Information:

Date/Time: Wednesday September 16th, 2015 6 pm-9 pm

Location: 200 S. Main St Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Phone: 912-872-1414

Eric’s Website:

Eric’s Facebook

Eric’s Twitter:

Main Street Tavern: Main Street Tavern on Facebook

Like Tulsa Jazz on Facebook:

Follow Tulsa Jazz on Twitter:





Angie Cockrell and Mike Leland Performing at Bluestone Steakhouse and Seafood


These shows are a Tulsa Jazz Music Group Production.


Wednesday August 12th 2015  6 pm to 9 pm

Thursday August 13th, 2015  6 pm to 9 pm

Location: 10032 S Sheridan Rd, Tulsa, OK 74133

Phone: 918-296-9889

Angie’s Website:

Angie’s Facebook Page

Bluestone Steakhouse Website:



National Artist Spotlight: Akua Dixon

AKUA DIXON, Cellist-composer-Conductor, is a native of New York City. A graduate of the
famed H.S. of Performing Arts, she studied cello with Benar Heifetz and composition with
Rudolf Schramm. Akua studied bass concepts with ReggieWorkman and Jazz Practice
Techniques with Jimmy Owens, at the Collective Black Artists Institution of Education.

She is the 1998 recipient of “The African American Classical Music Award”, given by the
Northern New Jersey Spelman Alumnae Association. Akua performs nationally and
internationally at concert halls and colleges, public schools and libraries; at jazz festivals in
Chicago , Hawaii , Berlin , St. Lucia, Tri-Sea, North Sea, Pori, Saalfelden, Jamaica, Puerto
Rico, Martinique, Guadaloupe, and San Diego, etc. Her music for string quartet has been
featured on an eight country, 26 concert tour of Europe and Scandinavia.

Among the many noted artists she has performed with a few are: Duke Ellington, Lionel
Hampton, Max Roach,Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Israel “Cachao” Lopez, Eubie Blake, Tony
Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Diana Ross, Bob Hope, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Liza
Minnelli, etc. She has been engaged at many Broadway shows, including: Doonesbury,
Barnum, La Cage aux Faux, Evita, Jerry’s Girls, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Cats, and
Akua has appeared on New York Undercover with James Brown, Mary J. Blige,
and B. B. King. Her first professional job was as a member of the famed Apollo Theatre
In 1973, she founded her own string quartet, Quartette Indigo. They have been called “jazz’s
leading string quartet” by some critics. The quartet’s repertoire features original works and
arrangements of jazz classics, by Akua.
Akua’s first release,”Quartette Indigo”, on Landmark
Records, received four stars in Downbeat. Her new CD is entitled “AFRIKA! AFRIKA!”, and
was released on Savant Records. Critics are now saying that the group “swings madly”.
To open the 1996 season of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre at City Center , she notated
and conducted the premiere of a new ballet, ” Riverside “, by Judith Jamison, music by Kimati
She also conducted their classic ballet “Revelations.” The filmscore to “Anna Oz”,
TV commercials for Jello’s Cheesecake and Butterscotch Puddings, and several types of
Kraft Yoghurts can also be added to her recent conducting credits.

Akua has lectured at the Smithsonian Institute and won grants from the National Endowment
of the Arts (“Afrika! Afrika!” – concert piece for solo cello and string orchestra) and the Rockefeller Foundation (“The Opera of Marie Laveau”) for her compositions. The Opera was performed at the Henry Street New Federal Theatre in New York, and Akua performed on the
piano for this event.

She received commissions from Meet the Composer to write a work for
the Festival of Women Improvisers (“Quest”) and the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s tribute to Dr.
Martin Luther King (“Jesus Is the Bridge”). Akua’s music for strings in jazz was the subject of
a WGBH-Boston public television special in 1981.

Akua’s performance and lecture for the New Directions Cello Festival of ’98 was also enthusiastically received.
She gave a lecture on playing the blues to approximately 50 aspiring jazz cellists. Akua has always been involved with inspiring children to pursue their
musical talents. This is her second season doing concerts for the Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert Series.
akua 4

Akua can be seen on videos with Wyclef Jean, conducting the
“Urban Youth Symphony”. She conducted “Gone Til November” on the Chris Rock Show, and for an MTV Special. During the summer of 1967 and 1968, she taught string students at Skidmore College in a special program entitled Project PEP (Programs to Excite Potential).

In 1972, she worked for the New York Board of Education as a Music Specialist, supplying new
repertoire to the string programs and teaching at 17 different schools. She has given clinics to
string players at the Cleveland School of the Arts and the Kamehameha School in Hawaii.

In 1978, she founded the Akua Dixon String Ensemble, which has supplied string sections for Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Carmen McRae, Woody Shaw, Frank Foster, Jimmy Heath, Pharaoh
Saunders, Buster Williams, and Antonio Hart.
In 1974, she was the Director of New Music for
“The String Reunion,” a New York based string orchestra formed by Noel Pointer. She
supplied originals and arrangements of jazz classics for this 30 piece string ensemble.

Akua has always been involved in playing new music, especially pieces that require
improvisation. She has also recorded with Tim Robbins, Don Cherry, Henry Threadgil, James
Blood Ulmer, and Joseph Jarman.

Her vocal work has won her international acclaim, recording with Archie Shepp’s Attica Blues
Big Band, “Live at the Palais de Glace” (accompanying herself on piano), and Steve Turre’s
Sextet with Strings album, “Right There.”

For more information about Akua Dixon go to her website:


Enhanced by Zemanta

National Artist Spotlight: Scott Tixier- Jazz Violinist


Violinist Scott Tixier is an award-winning recording artist, named as “Rising Star
Violin” in the 60th Annual critics poll Downbeat. He is a true innovator on his
instrument and is quickly becoming known as the new voice of jazz violin. He has
earned international recognition for his playing.

Grammy Award winning bassist Marcus Miller says that Tixier “is making an
international name for himself. I heard him in France and was immediately struck by
his individuality and his sound.“ Guitarist Pat Metheny says, “[Scott] has found a
place for himself within the elite community of New York jazz musicians, no small
feat.” In an interview with the All About Jazz in 2010, violinist Mark Feldman called
Scott “really up-and-coming and very talented.” And Jean Luc Ponty said “I have
heard Scott’s recordings, seen his live performances and I think that he stands
above the crowd of current jazz violinists around the world.”

Some musicians that he has performed or recorded with include Anthony Braxton,
Gerald Cleaver, Lonnie Plaxico, Tigran Hamasyan, Lew Soloff, Becca Stevens,
James Weidman, Maceo Parker, Siegfried Kessler, Tony Middleton and Helen

Artists Website:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Enhanced by Zemanta