I came to the Lighthouse Art Space in Chicago's Gold Coast to see Lenny White. I have been a fan of White's music since his days with the influential electric jazz fusion band Return to Forever. But tonight, there was no electric jazz and no fusion, and White - although excellent - was not the most impressive musician on the stage. Buster Williams on contrabass and pianist Cyrus Chestnut joined drummer White in a group that billed itself as "The Legendary Trio." Together, they filled the sold-out room with acoustic jazz for nearly two hours.
This was my first visit to Lighthouse - a venue known for its Immersive Van Gogh exhibit - a multimedia tribute to the artist. Tonight's set opened with thirty minutes of the "Immersive Mozart" exhibit, in which animated images floated across the four walls, accompanied by the composer's music.
When the Trio took the stage, the projections changed to static images of paintings by Frida Kala, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, and others. White joked that they were performing inside a painting, playing a soundtrack for the artwork.
White and Williams were excellent, but Cyrus Chestnut stole the show. His mastery of the keyboards was nothing short of phenomenal. Chestnut carried the melody while the other two supported with their rhythm. They opened with a Jimmy Van Heusen ballad - "It Could Happen to You," and followed with "Faith Amongst the Unknown" - a haunting Chestnut original. They played bouncing blues and melancholy jazz and even their own arrangement of a Chopin nocturne.
I was thrilled to attend a meet-and-greet following the show, where I expressed my appreciation for the evening's performance. I discovered the music of Return to Forever during my university days, but I never saw them in concert. After this week, I have seen all the members (White, bassist Stanley Clarke, guitarist Al Dimeola, and the late keyboardist Chick Corea) perform live.
It was an evening to remember.