Pianist and Songwriter Cyrus Chestnut to Headline Billy Taylor Jazz Festival


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Greenville, NC -- Again this year the East Carolina University School of Music Jazz Studies Program brings a world-class jazz performer to Greenville for the Billy Taylor Jazz Festival on April 22-23.

Critically-acclaimed pianist and songwriter Cyrus Chestnut headlines this year's event at the Murphy Center on ECU's campus on Friday, April 23, backed by the ECU Jazz Ensemble A under the direction of Carroll V. Dashiell, Jr.

“Cyrus is one of the most influential jazz artists on the scene today, bringing or combining his African American church service influences with the traditional jazz influences," said Dashiell. “Makes for an inspiring and exciting experience!"

Jazz 'Bones, George Brousard director, and the ECU Jazz Combos will perform a free concert at the Hilton Greenville on Thursday, April 22.

Born in 1963, Chestnut started his musical career at the age of three. By age six, he was playing piano at the Mount Calvary Star Baptist Church in his hometown of Baltimore, and by age nine, he was studying classical music at the Peabody Preparatory Institute. As an young adult, Chestnut honed his craft as a sideman with some of the legendary and leading musicians in the business including Jon Hendricks, Michael Carvin, Donald Harrison, Terence Blanchard, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Delfeayo Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Jimmy Heath, James Moody, Joe Williams, Isaac Hayes, Kathleen Battle, Betty Carter and Dizzy Gillespie. 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 Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All Star Big Band, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra.

Chestnut has been featured on film playing a Count Basie-inspired character in the Robert Altman film “Kansas City."

The All Music Guide says “His playing is robust but tasteful, and he plays ballads with a liquid fluency; his original compositions brim with good cheer...He can take the unlikeliest melodies and make them sound like standards...Highly recommended."

Dr. Billy Taylor--house pianist at Birdland, arts correspondent for CBS News “Sunday Morning," artistic advisor for jazz to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, recipient of two Peabody Awards, an Emmy, a Grammy, and 23 honorary doctoral degrees--is a national treasure, Greenville's native son and the festival's namesake.

For more information, call 252-328-6851, or ecu.edu/music.

2010 Billy Taylor Jazz Festival Schedule

Thursday, April 22
Jazz 'Bones, Hilton Greenville, 8:00 p.m., free
Jam Session, featuring ECU Jazz Combos, Hilton Greenville, 10 p.m., free

Friday, April 23
Murphy Center, ECU, 8 p.m.
Tickets: Theatre seating, individual $15
Table seating, individual $35
Table sponsorship $250
252-328-4736 V/TTY

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