For Lisa Kristine Hilton, music and art are always intertwined. Despite formal training in classical and twentieth century piano, the rigor of composition and music theory, or leading a performance tightrope of improvisation with living jazz legends, when Lisa Hilton sits down to compose, she brings the visual to the forefront. “While Louis Armstrong was performing, Monet was painting water lilies and French composers like Debussy were using harmonic ‘impressionism’. As a composer today, I explore music as art, building the composition with musical elements then ‘painting’ texture and color through various jazz approaches,” Hilton explains. “I might apply Seurat’s pointillism ideas to improvisation, creating new ways of expressing our life today”.
On Hilton’s recent album, DAY & NIGHT her “Sunrise” and “Day & Night” offer a clear picture of this technique, conveying a deep and rich emotional view into her musical soul. Hilton utilized improvisation, blues, modal washes, shifting key centers, and free jazz, as well as impressionism to create a refreshing yet familiar vibe. “I have always admired our great American composers Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Horace Silver and “Count” Bill Basie who were able to write strong melodies as well as creating lush musical landscapes.”
Hilton, inspired by stories of her great uncle, Willem Bloemendall, (1910-1937), a young Dutch piano virtuoso, first began piano using a colored keyboard guide to learn notes and started her first compositions shortly after that before beginning lessons at the age of eight. In college though, Hilton rebelled, needing to be creative, an urge she felt was crushed by the inflexibility of the classical training that was offered. So she dropped out of music entirely and switched majors to Art and Design, earning a Bachelor’s degree with honors.Read More...
Which brings in the visual. As Hilton explains; “I compose much like abstract or non-figurative painters – expressing musically and emotionally so the audience connects with the experience when songs are performed.”
“I am from a small town and grew up with limited music resources,” Hilton notes to underscore her drive. “It is purely my passion and love for the piano and American music that has propelled me for almost twenty years. For me to quit the piano as a teenager, drop it cold, and then fast forward to my life today — a career working with the best musicians and engineers in the world, performing at Carnegie Hall, hearing our music on the radio – it all seems like a bit of a miracle.”
Hilton’s body of work includes over 200 recorded tracks and she is considered one of the most distinctive composers and pianists in jazz today, her twenty-first century compositions drawing on classical traditions, twentieth century modernists, American jazz and blues, and the avant-garde, creating a body of work embracing a rich musical history while representing the hue and the cry, the modernity and energy, of our current epoch. Hilton’s blues inflected trans-genre or poly-genre style influences extend beyond jazz legends to include bluesman Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, minimalists like Steve Reich, current rockers Black Keys or modernists Prokofiev and Bartok. “I am deeply interested in continuing to explore and enlarge the literature of American twenty-first century piano”. If you ask Hilton what she’s up to, invariably she’ll say she’s ‘composing new music’. This is indeed what drives her art and her passion.
As an independent artist, Hilton has produced a total of nineteen albums through her publishing company, as well as having two CDs released exclusively in Asia and inclusion on several international compilations. Hilton continues to work with this era’s jazz luminaries including Christian McBride, Nasheet Waits, Sean Jones, Marcus Gilmore, Steve Wilson, Jeremy Pelt, Lewis Nash, Billy Hart, Larry Grenadier, Rudy Royston, and Bobby Militello among others. Her recent release, Nocturnal, features Terell Stafford/trumpet, JD Allen/tenor sax, Gregg August/bass and Antonio Sanchez/drums. Hilton’s music appears on international radio charts year after year for over a decade and has been heard on hundreds of radio stations around the world – including syndicated programs like NPR’s popular Morning Edition.
In addition, Hilton has been featured on CBS/Boston and WGN/Chicago, and has been included in the books: “The New Face of Jazz” by Cicily Janus, (Random House (2010), and “Viaggi nell’armonia delle note,” by Silvia Cinzia Turrin, (Atti Poetici 2013). Known for her warmth and showcasing diversity on stage, Hilton has played venues coast-to-coast including Carnegie Hall, Cornell University, CAP/UCLA, The Kodak Theatre, The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, The Smith The Waldorf Astoria/NYC, Jazz Week Summit/NY and many others. Hilton is a BMI artist, a voting member of National Music Publishers of America and NARAS/Producers & Engineers Wing, and a member of the Berklee College of Music Presidents Advisory Council.
Committed to helping students who are often overlooked, for many years Hilton has regularly spent time to help blind students at the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, The Junior Blind of America in Los Angeles, Camp Bloomfield for the Blind in California, and the adaptive music lab for visually impaired musicians at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Not only does Hilton bring music to these institutions. She has become an advocate for the rights of the disabled after discovering students with disabilities get less arts support than public or private schools.“I enjoy extending help to those with physical disabilities – music should be for everyone,” Hilton further explains.
But for now, as Hilton releases her nineteenth album, “Day & Night”, she will continue to focus on the creative aspects, “Music is my art now.”
“A true original at the top of her game.” All About Jazz
“Sheer beauty.” DownBeat
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“No one plays, writes or puts together a band better than this great, talented lady! NOCTURNAL is another in a growing list of deep excellent works from Hilton.”
Russ Davis/Voice of America
“NOCTURNAL is simply phenomenal. The composing and playing on this album is a tour de force. A quantum lead forward outward and upward for Hilton as a composer and she and her band have executed it flawlessly – truly an amazing group producing truly amazing music.. This is the best album I’ve heard in a decade, maybe in two decades. Deserving of record of the year on anyone’s list.”
“A collection of hard-hitting originals… her strongest outing yet.”
“Mastery of the keyboard…her music offers a unique blend of concepts and of past and future that’s quite beautiful…” – Burning Ambulance
“Lisa Hilton has done a remarkable job.”
The New York Jazz City Record
‘Lisa Hilton is one of the finest musical impressionists…’
Ken Franckling/Jazz Notes
…”speaks subtly of Satie and sublimely of Ellington… and a whirl of Brubeckian piano….”
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ABOUT THE MUSICIANS
ANTONIO SANCHEZ: DRUMS
Four time Grammy Award winner Antonio Sanchez is considered by many critics and musicians alike as one of the most prominent drummers, bandleaders and composers of his generation. Born in Mexico City on November 1st, 1971, he started playing drums at the age of 5 and began performing professionally early in his teens. Antonio pursued a degree in classical piano at the National Conservatory in Mexico and in 1993 he moved to Boston to enroll at Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in Jazz Studies. Since his move to New York City in 1999 Antonio has become one of the most sought after drummers in the international jazz scene. His playing is featured in over a hundred albums and has performed and recorded with some of the biggest names in jazz including Chick Corea, Michael Brecker, Charlie Haden, Gary Burton and has been the drummer of choice for 20 time Grammy winner Pat Metheny. He wrote the acclaimed score for the 2014 movie, “Birdman” featuring Michael Keaton, Emma Thompson and Naomi Watts.
GREGG AUGUST: BASS
Bassist Gregg August spans the jazz, Latin jazz, classical and avant-garde scenes. A sought-after composer and arranger, celebrated for his versatility, breadth and intelligence, Gregg has been an active member of the New York music scene for over ten years. He attended SUNY and The Eastman School of Music and received a Masters degree from The Julliard School. August has played with Ray Barretto, Ornette Coleman, Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo O’Farrill, JD Allen, Chick Corea, James Moody, The Chico O’Farrill Big Band, The Lincoln Center’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic among others. http://www.greggaugust.com
TERRELL STAFFORD: TRUMPET
This acclaimed trumpet player is based in New York, and has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by piano legend McCoy Tyner. Stafford is recognized as an incredibly gifted and versatile player, he combines a deep love of melody with his own brand of spirited and adventurous lyricism. Stafford is the Director of Jazz Studies and Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University, founder and band leader of the Terell Stafford Quintet, and Managing and Artistic Director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia (JOP). He was born in Miami and raised in Chicago, Illinois and Silver Spring, Maryland. He received a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from the University of Maryland in 1988 and a Masters of Music from Rutgers University. http://www.terellstafford.com/
J.D. ALLEN: TENOR SAXOPHONE
A Detroit native, J.D. Allen has spent most of his career in New York City, where he has played with Lester Bowie, George Cables, Betty Carter, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Frank Foster Big Band, Butch Morris, Wallace Roney, Cindy Blackman, Orrin Evans, Gerald Cleaver, and Me’shell Ndegeocello, among others. Allen’s debut album, In Search Of J.D. Allen, was awarded the Best New Artist award in Italy in 1999, and he has received numerous honors and award for what the New York Times describes as his “elegant and hard driving style.” http://www.jdallentenorsaxophonist.com/
SEAN JONES: TRUMPET
For the composer/trumpeter/educator/activist Sean Jones, the pursuit of jazz is a most serious endeavor. Deeply influenced by his immersion in Gospel music in the church as a youth, Sean had an epiphany at the age of 19 while he was a student at Youngstown State University. Five years later, after receiving his Master’s Degree from Rutgers University Sean had a 6-month stint with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. He has worked with Joe Lovano, Chico O’Farrill, Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Nancy Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Wilson, Marcus Miller, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter among others. He began teaching at Duquesne University in his adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, where he is currently Associate Professor of Jazz. In 2012 he also became Professor of Trumpet at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Sean also serves as Artistic Director of both the Pittsburgh and Cleveland Jazz Orchestras. Jones is currently the trumpet Chair at Berklee College. http://www.seanjonesmusic.com
MARCUS GILMORE: DRUMS
“The grandson of Roy Haynes, jazz’s most important living drummer, but he has proved his own virtues quickly. He created that pleasant citywide buzz when someone new and special blows through New York clubs and jam sessions. Now you can hear him regularly, playing with Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Nicholas Payton, Vijay Iyer, Ambrose Akinmusire, Yosvany Terry, Gretchen Parlato and others.”
RUDY ROYSTON: DRUMS
A native of Ft. Worth, Texas, drummer Rudy Royston was raised in Denver, Colorado and began playing drums and percussion as a toddler. Rudy graduated with honors from University of Denver, where he received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music and Poetry. Upon graduating college, Rudy went on to play and record in the gospel, alternative rock and jazz scenes in Denver and around the United States. He taught music 10 years in public schools before relocating to the east coast in 2006 to pursue graduate studies in music at Rutgers University. Rudy quickly integrated into the New York music scene, performing with world-renowned artists such as Javon Jackson, Bill Frisell, Les McCann, David Gilmore, Ben Allison, Jason Moran, JD Allen, Sean Jones, Jeremy Pelt, Greg Osby, Jennifer Holiday, Tia Fuller, Ravi Coltrane, Ralph Bowen, Bruce Barth, George Colligan, Don Byron, Stanley Cowell, Tom Harrell, John Ellis, Jenny Scheinman and The Mingus Big Band, to name a few. http://www.rudyroyston.com
LARRY GRENADIER: BASS
Bassist Larry Grenadier, a DownBeat Critics’s choice winner, tours extensively with Brad Mehldau, but also has recorded with Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, Pat Metheny, and Chick Corea and others, as well as his band Fly with Glen Ballard and Mark Turner. http://flytrio.com/
NASHEET WAITS: DRUMS
An exceptionally creative drummer and DownBeat Award winner, Greenwich Village based Waits is the son of drummer Freddie Waits and is known for his work with jazz artists Jason Moran, Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Escreet, Fred Hersch and the late Andrew Hill. www.nasheetwaits.com
JEREMY PELT: TRUMPET
Berklee grad and DownBeat Critic’s Choice Winner, Jeremy Pelt has appeared the last five years as a DownBeat Rising Star trumpeter, and received the attention of Nat Hentoff in an extensive Wall Street Journal article. Pelt is a leader of his own band, but also has performed with others such as Nancy Wilson, Cedar Walton, and Ravi Coltrane. http://jeremypelt.net
LEWIS NASH: DRUMS
Lewis Nash is consistently on Downbeat Magazine’s critic’s choice awards and has performed with Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Clark Terry and Milt Jackson. His impressive discography (over 300 recordings) includes projects with jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Benny Carter, Hank Jones, and John Lewis, as well as new jazz stars Diana Krall, Joe Lovano and Roy Hargrove. Demonstrating his stylistic diversity, Nash is also featured on recordings by Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Nancy Wilson, Kenny Rankin, Melissa Manchester and George Michael. His lectures, clinics and workshops are as much in demand as his bandstand and studio work. http://www.lewisnash.com/
BRICE WINSTON: SAXOPHONE
Saxophonist Brice Winston has been spending the last several years touring with trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s band, honing his skills with some of the most cutting edge young musicians on the jazz scene today, from drummer Eric Harland, guitarist Lionel Loueke and the Nicholas Payton Quintet. His time with Terence has brought playing experiences with some of the jazz greats like Herbie Hancock, Slide Hampton, John Faddis, Marcus Miller, and Cassandra Wilson, among others, and he has performed on a dozen movie scores. Brice attended the University of New Orleans under the direction of Ellis Marsalis. Brice is currently back in his hometown of Tucson, AZ, teaching a community jazz program called Jazzwerx, while continuing to tour with Terence Blanchard. www.bricewinston.com/
CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE: BASS
Grammy Award and DownBeat Poll winner Christian McBride, virtuoso of the acoustic and electric bass graduated from Julliard. Beginning in 1989, the Philadelphian has thus far been first-call-requested to accompany literally hundreds of fine artists, ranging in an impressive array from McCoy Tyner and Sting to Kathleen Battle and Diana Krall. He currently leads one of the hottest bands in music – the propulsive Christian McBride Band (saxophonist Ron Blake, keyboardist Geoffrey Keezer and drummer Terreon Gully). http://www.christianmcbride.com/
STEVE WILSON: ALTO AND SOPRANO SAXOPHONE
A musician’s musician, Wilson had been documented on over 100 recording with the likes of Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Dianne Reeves, and Billy Childs. Wilson has six recordings under his own name. http://www.stevewilsonmusic.com/
BOBBY MILITELLO: SAX
Bobby is well known to jazz fans for his many years of working with the master himself, Dave Brubeck. With over one hundred recordings he has played on to his name, the New Yorker also spent two years on the Tonight Show with Doc Severinson. www.bobbymilitello.com
REGGIE MCBRIDE: BASS
Reggie McBride was going to go to Berklee School of Music on scholarship before he was recuited to do a Stevie Wonder recording. He is originally from Detroit. His background is more blues-oriented, and he has worked on major recordings for B.B. King, Elton John, Al Jarreau, Rod Stewart, and current Billboard chart topper, Keb Mo. He plays acoustic and electric bass, and lives in North San Diego County.
TAL BERGMAN: PERCUSSION
Tal Bergman was born in Israel, studied classical drumming, and moved to New York at age 20. Tal has worked in every genre of music as well as written scores for several mainstream movies. He has toured and played with musicians in many genres… rock: The Offspring, Billy Idol; jazz: Chris Botti and icon Joe Zawinul; pop: Rod Steward; urban: L.L. Cool J; and classical crossover: Loreena McKennitt.