The Free Bridge Quintet, the University of Virginia’s official faculty jazz quintet, will present its first matinee concert on Nov. 4 at 3:30 p.m. in the Old Cabell Hall Auditorium. Critically acclaimed pianist Cyrus Chestnut will sit in as a guest performer.
A Baltimore native, Chestnut is often cited as one of the world’s best contemporary jazz pianists. The New York Daily News hailed him as the rightful heir to jazz legends Bud Powell, Art Tatum and Errol Garner. He is a first-call pianist for big bands such as the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra and the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.
Founded in 1997, the Free Bridge Quintet features Jeff Decker on saxophones, Robert Jospe on drums, Peter Spaar on bass and John D’earth on trumpet and flugelhorn. All are performance faculty members in the College of Arts & Sciences’ McIntire Department of Music.
Tickets are $15 ($8 for students, but free for U.Va. students who reserve in advance). They can be purchased online through the Arts Box Office or by calling 434-924-3376.
D’earth and Jospe have previously performed with Chestnut and said they look forward to sharing with stage with him again.
“Last April I played a trio concert in Charlotte, N.C., with guitarist Stanley Jordon,” Jospe said. “Cyrus Chestnut opened up for us with a magnificent solo performance, which had everyone, myself included, spellbound. At the end of our set, Cyrus joined us for two numbers that brought the house down. I’m thrilled Cyrus is coming to play with us in Charlottesville.”
As a bandleader, Chestnut has produced 15 albums, several of which peaked in the Top 10 on the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart. Over the course of his career, he has toured with Jon Hendricks, Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Wynton Marsalis and Betty Carter. Known for his stylistic versatility, Chestnut often incorporates gospel and R&B sounds into his performances. Some of his projects include “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Cyrus Plays Elvis,” a collection of jazz interpretations of Elvis Presley’s music.
“We played on a Jae Sinnett recording together back in the day,” D’earth said. “He is a one-of-a-kind musician who can play in any style and still project his own unique voice. He is a titan of modern jazz piano and a great human being.”
— By Michael Guerci