© 2023 WRTI
Your Classical and Jazz Source
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cyrus Chestnut Out-Elvises Elvis

Elvis Presley was a lot of things. He was a rags-to-riches success story. He borrowed blues and gospel licks from the black performers he admired and introduced them to a mainstream audience. He wasn't a mere American Idol, but the king himself. But he didn't really know how to tell a woman to "Love Me Tender," singing the song with a syrupy sincerity that's rarely the best way to a lover's heart.

Cyrus Chestnut, on the other hand, knows how to conjure up a spirit of genuine romance. Just listen to the jaunty jazz pianist's reinvention of "Love Me Tender" on his new CD, Cyrus Plays Elvis. It's a great example of how a gifted musician can take a sappy song and set it free.

The much-heard melody, lifted from an old Civil War ballad, rings out with newfound oomph, sounding insistent yet dreamy. Chestnut reinvigorates the song with lush chords, playful grace notes, worshipful tremolos and effortless runs up and down the 88s. Sometimes, the melody disappears altogether before returning, as if by magic. Chestnut works over the keyboard to win over the unnamed object of his desire, and it's hard to imagine anyone not giving in.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.