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NEW RELEASES / JAZZ : A Newcomer Sizzles, a Vet Philosophizes

March 18, 1994|ZAN STEWART

Careers in jazz are often easier to start than they are to maintain. This week's group of new album releases is headed up by the debut of a promising pianist, and the latest CD from a veteran saxophonist whose career is undergoing a resurgence.

*** CYRUS CHESTNUT, "Revelation" Atlantic

The pianist, in his early 20s and probably best known for his work with singer Betty Carter, makes an auspicious debut, leading a trio with bassist Christopher Thomas and drummer Clarence Penn. Chestnut has a ton going for him: an authoritative, resonant touch, a supple sense of swing, a bluesy swagger, compelling lyricism and more.

Chestnut wrote 10 of the album's 11 pieces, and they range from torrid ("Dilemmas") to tender ("Sweet Hour of Prayer"). The pieces occasionally sound derivative; "Macdaddy," for example, has an Oscar Peterson-ish tone--but listen to how softly Chestnut plays his instrument. The title track, performed unaccompanied and with a stylistic nod to Bud Powell, is nonetheless a winner.

Elsewhere, Chestnut adopts Ahmad Jamal's mannered delicacy and Gene Harris' blues grit, but he's young, and with considered effort this artist will undoubtedly blossom into a distinctive voice that will add vigor to the world of piano trio. New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent).

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