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As America and other countries re-emerge from the limitations of 2020, Lisa Hilton and her trio with Rudy Royston and Luques Curtis, enthusiastically embrace the moment with a vibrant new jazz offering that will inspire, uplift and motivate us all. Rich with glorious harmonies and unique compositions, Hilton’s swinging band radiates a sun bleached aura to listeners. Throughout the album Hilton, Royston and Curtis develop a surprisingly wide range of rhythmic ideas from a variety of genres, masterfully blending classic traditions with new approaches and upbeat style.
The recording jumps in with the Latin tinged Santa Monica Samba, quickly following with the equally energetic Random Journey on this collection of nine originals, plus one cover. Hilton has a way with ballads, and Nightingales & Fairy Tales is no exception. With its slight nod to Bill Evans in the sixties, this has the making of a jazz classic for a twenty – first century audience.
Living In Limbo, Chromatic Chronicles, Fall Upon a Miracle and Infinite Tango, highlight the multiple creative rhythms of Hilton’s compositions and showcase ample opportunities for Curtis’s agile bass, and the delightful details of Royston’s drums. A cover of God Bless The Child, co-written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr, is a charmer, and like all the tracks here, is skillfully and originally presented without being forced. Slowing towards the album’s end, Extraordinary Everyday Things is a calm and expressive soundscape. With a surprise twist, Hilton finishes the album with the title track, Transparent Sky as a sonorous piano solo.
Q & A with Lisa Hilton
Q. You, Rudy & Luques recently came out with the acclaimed 2020 release, More Than Another Day. How soon after that were you back in the studio for Transparent Skies?
A. We recorded More Than Another Day in August 2020 and Transparent Skies in May 2021- so about nine months apart. We all had a bit of extra time on our hands since there has not been any touring, so it was wonderfully normal to be playing again! I felt incredibly happy to be together and we had a much better experience than we did last August when we were anxious and awkward wearing masks and staying apart. This year, post vaccines, we could be ourselves and enjoy things. I have been very thankful that More Than Another Day has been so successful – one of the top recordings at Jazz Week so far for 2021 – but it was a bit stressful to create. Transparent Sky is very uplifting and has a lot of energy, so we hope listeners will like this one too.
Q. Is there a concept behind the title?
A. I think the title refers to how many of us are feeling right now: If a sunny sky connotates a good future, and a dark sky represents where humanity was in 2020, Transparent Sky has a sense of taking the moment for what it is – and to cherish what we can here and now. We don’t have any promises for tomorrow, do we? Today looks pretty good though.
Q. There’s a lot of different kinds of swing and movement on this album – was that intentional?
A. I always let the music emerge as I compose: I don’t know what I will create and I don’t try and force a direction or try to control it. What developed was a LOT of movement and richer chords and harmonies this year – which makes sense when you consider how static last year was and how we had less activities – as musicians we need to entertain ourselves too, so I think that’s why I subconsciously wrote in so many rhythm changes and multiple harmonic directions. Then of course, it was great fun to have Luques and Rudy add all their ideas and textures too. Our engineer, Chandler Harrod, did a great job recording and I love hearing all the cool bass and drum ideas on the compositions. This music really gets me moving and I love that!
Q. Is this recording was a new direction for you and your trio?
A. I began working in the direction of splicing different rhythms, genres and eras compositionally with our 2014 album Kaleidoscope. I feel that music of today should have genre mobility – that we prefer multiple ideas and references musically from any era or style and like the colored pieces inside a kaleidoscope, that life/humanity/music is more interesting because of variety. Transparent Sky, my band, and our music are examples of this approach: that beauty in our world is created through inclusion – if there were only red squares in a kaleidoscope, it would have no appeal.
Q. That’s true! Do you bring sheet music scores to the studio or do you just wing it? Do you rehearse?
A. When I first began recording I didn’t use any written scores at all – I just played the tune a couple times and then we recorded – a la the Miles Davis Kind of Blue approach. But I think it’s kinder to have the sheet music, so now I do all the scores ahead of time in Sibelius: being self -taught it took me a while to master notation software, but now it’s fun for me to create the scores – of course there is always room for improvisation too – the scores are more like skeletons for the band to work from. We still don’t rehearse though – jazz has never been about perfection – it’s supposed to be a bit loose and capture the energy of the moment whether it’s partially written or improvised. In classical music you shoot for perfection, but jazz has the energy that anything can happen at any moment, and for jazz lovers we find that much more engaging and dynamic.
Q. You included the cover God Bless The Child that was popularized and sung by Billie Holiday. Tell us about that selection please.
A. For a long time I’ve been trying to record cover songs by women who were composers, because there is very little attention paid to them in jazz – they are normally identified as singers or instrumentalists. I’ve recorded tunes by Joni Mitchell, Ann Ronnell and Janis Joplin, and I was surprised that I hadn’t even realized that Billie Holiday had written/co-written several songs. She is one of the most well – known and enduring jazz recording artists, yet we seem to know a lot more about her love affairs and drug habits than we do about her talents, right?
Q. That’s true! Did she write God Bless The Child?
A. Yes, she was the co-writer with Arthur Herzog Jr. I’ve read two books and seen a movie about Billie Holiday, and they never highlighted the fact she was a composer! I don’t even think her Wikipedia bio notes her songwriting and when I went to license the song for our album, it could only be searched under the co-writer’s name not hers. I think it’s important to give women recognition for all for their talents, and by promoting these talents maybe we will see less discrimination in jazz/classical/opera music. Thankfully we see more women as bandleaders, producers, instrumentalists and recording engineers, but performing arts centers, opera houses and jazz clubs around the world are still almost entirely focused on presenting music of male composers. Billie Holiday should be recognized for her skills as a songwriter – it’s a great tune!
Transparent Sky is available for pre-order August 3rd, 2021 and out Sept 3rd, 2021.
“Bright and breezy, with her piano and the chops she packs it with front and center, Hilton makes a big statement here…” The Midwest Record
“Hilton’s elegant piano and profound and dynamic-filled rhythm are beautiful and melodic piano trio work.”
“Impressive… Delightful.” JazzWeekly
“Vibrant selections, great harmonies and compositions.” JazzHQ
“Always happy to listen to new Lisa Hilton music!” AIDING & ABETTING BLOG
“Listen to the piano with a refreshing & natural texture. It is a touch reminiscent of the transparent & beautiful sky of the title, while inserting a unique bluesy Hilton energy at points.” Catfish Records/Japan
“It’s beautiful!” KVNF Radio
“I absolutely loved Lisa’s previous album, and this one sounds just as fresh and even more exciting!”
IDC Radio /ISRAEL
“What sheer delight! All tracks are beautifully played with melodies to cover every hour of the clock-face. I nominate “Nightingales & Fairy Tales“ as my “Hit-Pick” but only by a slender note. All tracks are so good.”
“Lisa Hilton never fails to entertain us with new sounds and innovative ideas. She has produced a number of albums all of which are unique & a delight to listen to. This latest offering is no exception, great music from a trio which, from the sound they produce, they obviously think they are a big band.” SINE FM /UK
“LOVE THE ALBUM….will use it on PACIFIC JAZ.com for sure!!” PACIFIC JAZZ.COM
“We love Lisa’s music.” WFWM/MD
“I don’t actually like this particular CD…. I LOVE IT! I love the fact that Ms. Hilton keeps the traditional jazz sound alive while adding her own flare to it. Love the way it makes me feel… The Lisa Hilton Trio plays music that sparkles and hits you right where it’s needed. FANTASTIC!!” JAZZ ZONE
“Great piano music!” CKSJ/Newfoundland
“The best!” MGZC/NC
“MAGIC!” SOLAR RADIO/UK
“Lisa never disappoints, another outstanding album!” WORLD OF JAZZ
“Real Nice!” CJSW/Canada
“A great sounding trio who seem to enjoy playing together..” Saturday Jazz -RTRFM/Australia
“Lisa Hilton is The best jazz lady of jazz. I like the way she plays piano and the way she plays jazz. It’s music to my heart.” FM Urquiza/Argentina
“Energizing.” Uptown Jazz Network
“Real fine.” Freies Radio/Germany
“Great piano sound as always!” WMWM/MA
“Beautiful album.” 2SER FM/Australia
“First class playing of great tunes!” Radio VoceSpazio /Italy
“LOVE THIS!” WORLD JAM RADIO/UK
“Very nice!” The Jazz Lounge/UK
“Love it!” Acxit Radio/Canada
“Entertaining!” JUST JAZZ/Australia
“Hot, hot, hot!” JAZZ RADIO DC