HORIZONS, the latest album from Lisa Hilton, is simply more proof that when it comes to jazz piano, she ranks with the best of them. The creative intelligence of her original compositions combines with her sensitive craftsmanship to define the road ahead for post bop jazz. Her music, built upon classical and jazz influences, is both sensuously lyrical and improvisationally rich. It is the kind of music that rewards attention: the more you listen, the more there is to hear.
“HORIZONS takes its inspiration from nature,” she writes in her blog. “Every day I see so much beauty, truth, and healing after difficulties in nature. In our highly tech world, I believe we need nature and art more than ever, so we have tried to explore these ideas musically through sound, melody and improvisation to create a sense of expansiveness, depth, beauty and hope for today and our future.” It’s the kind of programmatic approach that has fueled much musical composition from Vivaldi to Ellington.
Leading a quintet featuring J. D. Allen on tenor sax, Sean Jones on trumpet and flugelhorn, Greg August on bass and Rudy Boyston on drums, Hilton runs through a 12-tune set made up of nine original pieces and three covers. Her trio arrangement of the Duke’s “Sunset and the Mockingbird” is suitably retro, while her take on the Black Keys “Gold on the Ceiling” is a rhythmic adventure fueled by bass and drums. She gets everyone involved in her evocative arrangement of the classic “Moon River,” with some especially soulful work on flugelhorn from Jones.
Her own “Vapors and Shadows” opens the album and sets the tone for what is to come. It is a melodic jewel. “Nocturnal,” which follows, is more upbeat than its title might suggest; it bounces with a Latin beat, and “Surfer Blues” takes the traditional blues up a notch. She does a beautiful solo piano take on “When it Rains.” The opening of “Lazy Moon” puts the emphasis on evoking the “lazy” and working it ambitiously. “Dolphins” goes in a more playful direction, and “Currents” ends the set on an expansive note.
Hopefully, Lisa Hilton’s HORIZONS, unlike that other Hilton’s horizon, once found will not be lost.