"One of the few pianists with her own identifiable sound. Pensive and impressionistic; this is a recording that focuses and captures the exquisite subtleties of life." George Harris/All About Jazz
"Hilton strips herself bare and the result is a series of warmly -recorded solo piano pieces performed with exuberance and confidence." Brad Walseth/JazzChicago.net
The rumble of an early morning voice, a summer breeze, the warmth of a hand on your back, or as Ira Gershwin put it, “the way you wear your hat” – it is the nuances that can touch us as deeply as dramatic events. It’s not only what we say, but how we say it, that makes all the difference. For pianist extraordinaire Lisa Hilton, it’s not only what she plays – but how she plays it.
“Muddy Waters, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy and others have all composed music that expresses nature or emotions – common experiences that we all share,” says Hilton, “I believe that music can express more eloquently than words allow.” Nuance, is a varied collection of 12 tracks of new and previously released material, originals and covers, all newly recorded/arranged specifically for solo piano. “There have been some great songs that I have done with the band, that I have wanted to do as solo arrangements too,” Hilton continues, “It was good to revisit some of my favorite tunes again.”
Expanded versions of the upbeat “Twilight,” the angular “Just for Fun” and “Melt Down,” the latter which was featured with the band on NPR’s Morning Edition; the ever-popular romantic ballad, “So This Is Love,” and the former #1 World Wide Jazz track, “Malibu,” intermingle seamlessly with the moody “Early Morning Impressions,” bluesy “Blue Reflections” and the lovely “Stars.” Covers of Thelonious Monk’s “Off Minor,” Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” and the iconic blues tune, “The Thrill Is Gone,” round-out the collection.
Although she’s been favorably compared to Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Horace Silver, Dave Brubeck and Brad Mehldau, Hilton’s own sound shimmers naturally throughout. “My desire is always to communicate and touch others, in a relaxed and authentic style. Technique is about ease of expression, not for saying, ‘hey look at me’,” says Hilton, “I hope listeners hear their lives reflected in these tracks.”
While Hilton had been thinking about doing an album of this nature for many years, it finally came about as a response to requests from Lisa’s many fans. “Nuance is really a gift to them,” explains the critically- acclaimed composer, pianist, educator and bandleader. “I love our band” (which currently includes members Lewis Nash on drums, Larry Grenadier on bass, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet and J.D. Allen on sax), “We have a lot of fun together and the musicianship is very high. But I had promised to do a solo piano album for years now and really enjoyed returning to that format”.
Hilton’s first recording, the solo “Seduction,” was recorded in late 1997 at a time when solo piano had very little chance of finding an audience. Terrestrial radio loomed large at that time, when Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey ruled. “I sold like 2 copies I think and my distributor, The Orchard, had its own problems as well then. I was devastated, but forged ahead.” Hilton continued recording solo but in 2000, she just gave up and started working with a trio, and later her band. “I moved into a new home in 2001 and I remember just dumping the large _” analog piano masters in the dumpster feeling that I had to give up on solo piano.”
This wasn’t the first time Hilton had left behind the music that she was passionate about either. Growing up in a very musical household, (her great uncle, Willem Bloemendaal was a well regarded Dutch pianist), she voraciously studied music in the small southern California town where she went to school, studying classical, twentieth-century music, playing show tunes for school productions and writing blues and jazz riffs. College in San Francisco put her with a piano instructor known for his talent, and his exacting temperament. “I left the piano because I believe music is an art not a science, and after my experiences in college, I didn’t foresee a musical future anymore.” Hilton earned a degree in art instead, forgoing the piano until she returned to playing in 1996. “It was difficult to leave music, my first love, but it did enable me to study art,” responds Hilton. “Now my art is my music; now my passions are combined.”
Since 1997 Hilton has recorded and produced an album every year of her own compositions and arrangements for solo piano, trio, and as a leader for her band. Hailed by JazzReview as a “lioness of jazz,” she works with some of the greatest musicians in music -- Christian McBride, Lewis Nash, Bobby Militello, Larry Grenadier, Jeremy Pelt, Reggie McBride, J.D. Allen and Tal Bergman -- just to name a few, and her current band is comprised of all Down Beat Magazine Critics’ Choice Award Winners. Hilton has produced six of her twelve releases with the legendary, twenty-time Grammy award winning engineer/producer, Al Schmitt, and as one of the few women producers working in jazz, she also runs her own publishing company to oversee 130+ recorded tracks.
“I agree with Quincy Jones, that music saved my life,” Hilton muses, “but I’d also have to say that iTunes did too!” Shortly after it’s inauguration in 2001, Hilton, like millions of others, began selling her music on iTunes and the internet and suddenly found a whole new market for solo piano. “Here I had dumped my masters in despair, and the following year the world changed for musicians. Fortunately my mastering house had kept their masters!” Today Hilton’s solo piano tracks continue to sell well with fans globally, elicit favorable nods from reviewers, and she has seen huge growth in the last several years. Hilton’s music is played on hundreds of radio stations in the U.S., Canada and around the world.
Based in Malibu, California, Hilton’s fluid, expressive playing style has a blues inflected and refreshing Pacific Coast vibe that has been influenced by other one-time Malibu residents: Miles Davis, Horace Silver and Stan Getz. She has received various awards and nominations for her compositions. Lisa has been featured on CBS Television/Boston and WGN Television/Chicago. A published author, Hilton has written for Jazz Times and Jazziz magazine, and is currently working on a book about musicianship. An interview with Hilton will be also be included in the upcoming Random House book, “The New Face of Jazz,” by Cicily Janus.
Nuance will be accompanied by tour dates throughout the U.S.