More Than Another Day is the latest jazz release by composer/pianist/producer Lisa Kristine Hilton, this time showcasing a trio with Luques Curtis and Rudy Royston. Hilton, Curtis, Royston and bandmate JD Allen were halfway through their 2020 tour when the U.S. corona virus lockdown began. Fearful for a family member who was stuck and sick in Italy, and worried about the health and safety of the world, Hilton turned as always, to her creative side. “I grew up in a small quiet town where it seemed nothing ever happened. I always turned my abundant energy into creativity – this lockdown just reminded me of those early days. To me, quiet propels my creative side.”
More Than Another Day opens with the title track exploring layered jazz influences along with able support from Curtis and Royston, then the album quickly segues into the upbeat and propulsive Retro Road Trip.
Secret Beach, Karma Chaos, and Hilton’s arrangement of Cole Porter’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin have strong Latin influences with tremendous trio interplay: Royston’s detail work and shimmering cymbals complementing addictive bass lines from Curtis, and Hilton as well. Hilton’s bluesy side and hallmark fluid and swinging lines are amply exhibited on the soulful Blues & Beauty and No Sleep Until… The tracks Today I Looked At Love, Dear Life of Mine and So This Is Love emerge as sonic tapestries or paintings of jazz concepts, exploring a wide variety of harmonic as well as textural rhythmic ideas. Hilton’s influences seem to range from Antonio Carlos Jobim to Bill Evans, Count Basie and others, all woven together with an expressive and very creative band agilely using well-loved jazz references in delightful, surprisingly creative ways.
Q & A with Lisa Hilton
Q: I’m sure it was disappointing to cancel shows from your tour last spring. What was it like for you to instead be composing during a pandemic?
Lisa Hilton: Well, I was curious about that too – I’ve never/we’ve never, been through an experience like this, so I really wasn’t sure what I would, or could create during a world crises. But in 2019 I had read the extensive biography on pianist/composer, Fryderyk Chopin by Alan Walker. Chopin continued to compose during the gruesome 1932 cholera outbreak in Paris, France, so knowing that inspired me to continue composing. I think this year has made me realize that creativity is how I process life experiences, so volatile times can be productive – I know that sounds weird – but turmoil can stimulate creativity for artists. When you read the biographies of jazz musicians, it does seem that difficult experiences might have fostered creativity in others – names like Monk, Cannonball and Jaco come to mind.
Q: Interesting idea. So the lock down didn’t affect your productivity other than touring?
A: I think being at the piano was a great way for the music to pour out actually. Growing up, my family lived a relatively quiet and academic oriented life, so as a kid I used to fill long hours in a myriad of creative ways. I think that quiet can be a plus for creativity for many artists.
Q: Did you have a theme or concept you were composing towards based on what was happening in the U. S. and around the world?
A: I understand that many musicians prefer to work from a concept or assignment approach, but for me, music surfaces from my subconscious, not from my conscious mind, as a response to what is happening collectively. I let the music emerge: I don’t know what I will create and I don’t try and force a direction or try and control it. Later, I can tell what the concept is though.
Q: Which is…
A: I think we should acknowledge this unique time, but also boldly walk towards our future, taking along our past experiences and history, but let’s also look for what is coming around the corner – what’s next after this day, this year? And whatever happens, don’t forget to notice the beauty or goodness in life and not just remember the harshness of this time.
Q: Was that the idea you were showing on the cover with the vintage luggage and the roses – bringing the past with you along with the “beautiful” roses?
Q: Tell us more about composing from your subconscious mind please.
A: When I sit at the piano the music starts to take form – almost as if it’s inside of me just waiting for the opportunity to be heard. When I compose I do not know what key or time signature I am in, or even what note I am playing. I just allow the tune to evolve and then quickly try and translate it into music notation on the computer after I have a direction I like. I don’t ever compose to say someone else’s book or poetry or a historical incident, or give myself assignments to write in certain keys, for example. I just allow the music to emerge unobstructed, and then later on, of course I will analyze and work with it. Initially though, I’m more of a passenger or observer letting the music unfold where it may. Sometimes it’s a melody, or maybe a cool riff, other times it’s a well – formed tune.
Q: Does that happen quickly? How long does it take to finish a song?
A: Initially it is pretty quick, but finishing can take months! I’m always looking for so many things: balance, expression, communication and good compositional form. But I also want music that’s fun to play, and that my bandmates and I can enjoy improvising on. The bedrock of a jazz musician is exploration – we constantly want to explore what can be done with music harmonically, rhythmically, and with improvisation, while connecting with our shared world.
Q: Do you have a favorite tune on this album?
A: That’s a hard question! The band liked Blues & Beauty a lot – I love Retro Road Trip best.
“Simply one of the best of the year.”
All About Jazz
“WOW! Hilton has an absolutely unique and beautiful sound and regardless of the tempo, she has an irresistible momentum and brilliant phrasing. Chalkboard Destiny is one of the top ten jazz albums I have ever heard…just the unvarnished truth.”
Hugh Carson/KVNF Radio
“My favorite album we’ve worked on – there’s a lot of great music!”
Al Schmitt, 23-time Grammy Award winning engineer/producer
“An intimate and solid piano, with harmonies that seduce and captivate; Lisa Hilton has authentic and continuous musical creative passion.”
“Albums like ‘Chalkboard Destiny’ scream for attention and praise. The group is strong, assured, creative and fresher than most of what is being passed around these days as modern jazz. Few artists have a personal and yet accessible sound these days. Hilton gets put in the top rung on this one.”
“This is straight-ahead, eminently listenable jazz, played with both energy and finesse, showcasing Hilton’s compositional strengths… It’s a beautiful listen.”