Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pianist LISA HILTON Explores Evolution of Nature Through Sound, Melody and Improvisation on HORIZONS

The view of any singular horizon changes with each movement one makes, no matter how small. With every step forward, backward, or side-to-side, a horizon evolves into a new and unique view. On her upcoming release, Horizons, pianist and composer Lisa Hilton aims to show that, much like a picturesque landscape, music is meant to evolve in the same fashion. Following last years Kaleidoscope, Horizons marks the seventeenth stateside album from the pianist/composer and is a continuation of Hilton's exploration through sound, melody and improvisation. With Hilton behind the piano, the record features exceptional performances by trumpeter Sean Jones, tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen, drummer Rudy Royston, and bassist Gregg August. 

Hilton writes in her liner notes, "I see so much beauty and truth in nature..." and that has led her to be informed and inspired on these 12 tracks - nine that are composed by Hilton.  From the classic straight ahead "Nocturnal" and Basie inspired, "Surfer Blues" to the intrigue of "Vapors and Shadows" or the playfulness of "Dolphins" and "Perfect Day," Hilton and her well - honed band bring a playlist of jazz styles.  It is the playful recast of the melody though that enlightens "The Sky and the Ocean" and "Lazy Moon" as well as Hilton's elegant arrangements of Duke Ellington's gem, "Sunset and the Mockingbird" and the Mercer/Mancini classic, "Moon River." These pieces really shine with Jones' clarion flugelhorn and Allen's seductive tenor.  Royston and August contribute well throughout especially on The Black Keys "Gold on the Ceiling" and the thoughtful, "Currents".  Horizons includes the impressionistic, "When It Rains" as a solo piano soundscape.
"I like to let what I see in nature inform and inspire my life," Hilton muses. "We see the extremes of weather, as well as a myriad of variations, but nature goes through severe change or challenge and then recovers.  If you take the time to look, there's always something positive to be found - a sunrise or a sunset to lift your spirits every day, so I like look at out to our horizon.  What happens outdoors is often a metaphor for what we're doing musically and compositionally - hopefully a sense of expansiveness, depth and beauty along with improvisations on life." 

A a distinctive and thought provoking composer and pianist, Hilton creates compositions that draw 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 post bop style influences extend beyond jazz legends Thelonious Monk, Count Basie and Duke Ellington, to include bluesman Muddy Waters, minimalists like Steve Reich, current rockers Green Day and The 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, but in college, switched majors and received a degree in art.  "I approach music as my art now," Hilton explains; "I build the composition with the musical elements - melody, rhythm, form, then 'paint' texture and color through harmony, improvisation, density and other concepts".

Hilton has produced a total of 17 albums, representing over 200 compositions to her name.  She has worked with many of this era's jazz luminaries, notably Christian McBride, Nasheet Waits, Steve Wilson, Jeremy Pelt, Lewis Nash, Billy Hart, Bobby Militello, Larry Grenadier, and Marcus Gilmore among others.  Her releases regularly appear on radio charts. 

Committed to helping students who are often overlooked, Hilton regularly spends time to help young blind musicians at the historic Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, The Junior Blind of America in Los Angeles, Camp Bloomfield for the Blind in Malibu, California, or with The Berklee College of Music in Boston and their adaptive music lab for visually impaired musicians.  "I enjoy extending help to those with physical disabilities - music should be for everyone," Hilton explains.

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