Kaleidoscope is composer/pianist Lisa Hilton’s 16th release, and features drummer Marcus Gilmore, bassist Larry Grenadier and on three tracks, the tenor sax of J.D. Allen. “The goal of an artist is to express what is happening in our world and create a connection that others hear, see or feel,” Hilton explains. “The last few years have been challenging to so many, and it feel we need to somehow, shift our perspective – like a kaleidoscope shifts it’s pretty pieces, and view our world and lives with a new point of view – that’s what each of us can do on a daily basis. Musically we are taking the elements of music and jazz, and shifting them into “new” configurations that are hopefully, delightful to the ear. Kaleidoscope is about personal change as well as musical progress.”
Although Hilton has been a band – leader for more than a decade, she is primarily acknowledged for her compositions and impressionistic touch at the keyboards – “A sculptor of sounds” as All About Jazz. “Many musicians are primarily ‘players’ who also compose. My great passion is to compose first, as well as to play the piano in new ways and I enjoy producing as well. America has been home to so many great jazz composers in the past – I am fascinated by our strong heritage and seek to further that. That means you won’t find me on the road 300 days a year though,” Hilton laughs a little, “I’m always exploring composers I admire.” Hilton now has over 200 tracks of her compositions and arrangements on iTunes.
Joining Hilton once again is bassist, Larry Grenadier – well known for his consistent virtuosity and recordings with Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny Chris Potter and his own Fly Trio. For the first time, Marcus Gilmore joins Hilton, with a depth of experience and family history. Ben Ratliffe writes in the New York Times of Gilmore: “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.”
Hilton also features the acclaimed and deep tones of tenor sax, J.D. Allen on three tracks. Kaleidoscope’s upbeat vibe encompasses retro bop, avant- garde, impressionist and minimalist ideas in eleven tracks. Audiophiles will enjoy the rich sound contributed by the best sound engineers in the world with Al Schmitt, Gavin Lurssen and James Farber all involved.
Hilton starts with the retro groove of Simmer where Horace Silver or early Herbie Hancock would feel at home, then moves into the noir of Whispered Confessions and Labyrinth. The trio switches it up on the aptly named, Bach, Basie, Bird Boogie Blues Bop, then shifts to the languid, When I Fall in Love by Heyman & Young. Somehow channeling Bill Evans and Jelly Roll Morton in this dreamy standard works in a surprising and refreshing way. The only other cover is essentially bookend – Adele’s One and Only – a new pop jazz standard equally at home with the Heyman & Young here. Allen gets free rein for his dusky tenor on Midnight Mania, where the band leads a manic free explosion and back. The title track, Kaleidoscope, the bluesy Blue Horizon and the solo take of Stepping Into Paradise all showcase Hilton’s intimate piano wafting improvisations. The disc ends on an upbeat and traditional note with Sunny Side Up.
Hilton spent her childhood in a small coastal California town in a very academic and musical environment, with family chamber music sessions the norm at holidays. She studied classical and modern piano literature as well as flute. As is the case with many jazz musicians, the institutional course for a musical education did not pan out, and in college, Hilton left music to pursue a degree in art. “In retrospect, the years studying art from impressionism to the conceptualists has added to my musical “palette” – my music is now my art. I feel like I use musical elements to paint and later sculpt the sound after I have a form established.” Critics have compared to Hilton to Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Brad Mehldau, as well as Debussy and Satie, and have remarked on the expressive and painterly quality of her sound.
“An outstanding collection of tunes… Kaleidoscope is full of great music.”
H. Allen Williams/JazzTimes.com
Jeff Tamarkin/Jazz Times Magazine
“One of the finest composers working in jazz today.”
Ken Frankling/Jazz Notes
“Under the deft touch and considerable artistic vision of Lisa Hilton, modern and traditional jazz come together as one. Nine of the eleven tunes on Kaleidoscope are originals further solidifying Hilton as a composer of note. Hilton moves effortlessly between classical and jazz. There is a shift, a lyrical and harmonic adjustment within the more traditional ranks of jazz and Lisa Hilton is now leading the charge. A formidable quartet with adventurous original compositions banged out by some of the finest musicians of our time. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
Brent Black/Critical Jazz
“The sheer beauty of her playing –the rhythmic acuity, those silky lines –“ Jon Garelick/Down Beat Magazine
“Kaleidoscope pulsates with warm sensuous harmonies, originality & swinging brilliance.”
San Diego County News
“Lisa Hilton doesn’t disappoint, delivering a whiz-bang listening experience.”
Nick Bewsey/ICON Magazine
“Lisa Hilton’s signature style is impressively on display.”
“Lisa Hilton is a jazz musician of incredible sensibility and nuance.” Hugh Carson/KVNF
“One of the few pianists that can meld the hard bop of Horace Silver with the aphoristic impressionism of Bill Evans.”
C. Michael Bailey/All About Jazz