Nineteen albums in, after working with the top-drawer jazz masters, like Antonio Sanchez, 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, LISA HILTON strips her music down to the essentials and returns to the solo format with DAY & NIGHT to be released on the Ruby Slippers Productions label (#1021) with a street date of December 16th 2016 and heading to radio on January 2nd . Hilton was last heard in this setting with her acclaimed 2010 release, NUANCE, which All About Jazz said was “a recording that focuses and captures the exquisite subtleties of life”.
For this album, Hilton looked to the great American composer Cole Porter—one of her favorite composers, for inspiration, (the CD title DAY & NIGHT is a nod to Porter’s classic, Night and Day). As Hilton noted, “I have always appreciated Cole Porter’s lush melodies and gentle Latin rhythms – and, interestingly, we’re both from small towns!” (Porter from Peru, Indiana and Hilton in San Luis Obispo, California). Hilton includes a searing and simple take on Porter’s classic, “Begin the Beguine”, which turns wondrously seductive under her touch. Her original tunes, “Stepping into Paradise”, “A Spark in the Night” and “So This is Love” do convey the some of Porter’s cosmopolitan essence, but also embedded in Hilton’s realization of her nine original compositions is the vibrating energy and bluesy soul of fellow composer/pianists “Count” Bill Basie, and Horace Silver. Hilton has wound an underlying concept through the music of DAY & NIGHT.
Mirroring her solo format, the theme Hilton writes of in her liner notes is introspective: “Day & Night echoes my commitment to discover and savor every day moments: to see the beauty in a day from the first glow of sunrise to the dimming sky at sunset, and to acknowledge and share these these rich times others.” DAY & NIGHT begins with the upbeat samba charmer, “Caffeinated Culture” before the title track delivers its sophisticated drama. Hilton’s “Seduction” an earlier composition from her NOCTURNAL album—attests to Hilton’s fluid pianistic style, but with traces of the Basie and Silver influences holding sway.
“Sunrise” and “Sunset on the Beach” both feature Hilton as a strong impressionist—one of the unique qualities of her compositions, while “Dark Sky Day” hints of Hilton’s classical training.Hilton has composed her pieces to treat the traditional in new ways, combining multiple rhythmic and genre ideas as if to try and shine a different light to the scene of a shared cup of coffee, a jostle of memories or the simmer of passions held dear to the heart.
Twenty – three time Grammy winning engineer, Al Schmitt lends his masterful talents to these ten tracks that were recorded at the legendary Capitol Studios in Hollywood – a treat for any audiophile. There is a remarkable intimacy and immediacy that brings you right inside the sound – Hilton has worked with Schmitt and Grammy award winning Gavin Lurssen, for over a decade.
Hilton is considered one of the most distinctive composers and pianists in jazz today, her compositions drawing on classical traditions, twentieth century modernists, and the avant-garde as much as they look back to icons of American jazz and blues. Hilton’s blues inflected trans-genre or poly-genre style influences extend beyond jazz legends Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Horace Silver and Duke Ellington, to include bluesman Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, minimalists like Steve Reich, current rockers Black Keys or modernists Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Bartok. Originally from a small town on California’s central coast, Hilton studied classical and twentieth century piano formally from the age of eight, where she was inspired by her great uncle, Willem Bloemendall, (1910-1937), a young Dutch piano virtuoso. In college though, due to the lack of creativity in the program, she became a music school dropout, switching majors and receiving a degree in art instead. Ever since becoming a professional musician, this background in the fine arts has well informed Hilton’s composition process. “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.”
“Lisa Hilton has imbued “Day & Night” with a virtuosity and a nuance of composition and playing that is extraordinary. Hers is a unique sensibility, incomparable. The stunningly unexpected places she so seamlessly travels will leave you awestruck, wonderfully paralyzed by beauty and the genius of her artistry.
Let’s back track a bit. Two months ago. After one of my jazz shows at a community radio station here in the middle of nowhere in Western Colorado, I was driving home late one night, trying to get a handle on “Day & Night.”
Me, not really listening or following as hard and intently as I’d done when I first got an advance copy, just letting it flow over me. The music not loud but enough volume to fill the car, eyes on the road, the moonlitnightshadows of the back road and the 12,000’ mountain silhouettes on the periphery of my vision. As majestic as what I was listening to.
Trying to “get it,” to instinctively find what I was hearing. Only way to go as a DJ who was never a musician, but to whom music is pretty down to the bone real to me. “Music is not what I do, it’s who I am.”
The album came to an end as I stopped 30 minutes later at the Hwy 92 turnoff to Crawford. I shut off the car, lights off, windows down, staring straight ahead into the nightsilence, the last two tracks coming on. It hit me. I took a breath, a deep one. A perfectly seamed composition and incredible performance had embraced me with a clarity and understanding that only a few – a very, very few – albums have ever done. Lisa and her previous work tend to do that. “Day and Night” is pre-eminent.
I was suddenly “there” with Day & Night, and I haven’t looked back. As a listener, as a non-musician, you never quite get “there.” But you can get pretty close, anchoring a tune or an album down where it matters. Yes, I finally got “Day and Night” on that trip home. “Getting it” means a lot to a DJ with any kind of chops. After all, if you don’t get it, how can you play it?
As a composer and pianist, on this one, on the previous ones, she is simply phenomenal. I am in love with her music. All of it. Always have been, always will be. Thank you, Lisa Hilton. Again.”
Hugh Carson/KVNF Radio
“Day & Night just might be the tonic this nation needs…everyday treasures that strengthen the bonds of humankind are intrinsic to the music of Lisa Hilton.”
“Virtuosity aside, one is left simply awestruck and wonderfully paralyzed by beauty.”
“Hilton is a player in full command of the nuances of her instrument. In her approach is a welcome expanse of dynamics and tonal variety, enabling her to conjure aural pictures. Memorably resonant original songs…and gentle pianistic fireworks.”
Hot House Jazz Guide