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.”