Pianist/Composer/Producer Lisa Hilton Releases New Recording "American Impressions"


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Pianist/composer/producer Lisa Hilton releases new recording AMERICAN IMPRESSIONS featuring J.D. Allen, Larry Grenadier and Nasheet Waits

On March 27th, 2012 pianist, composer and producer Lisa Hilton releases American Impressions—her 14th album as a leader and second with her band featuring, JD Allen on tenor saxophone, Larry Grenadier on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. In the spirit of George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and other American composers, Hilton's second release with this ensemble focuses on impressions of everyday life in America.

“These compositions each began as musical explorations of melody, dissonance, improvisation, but at a certain point became evocative of a specific experience, subject or emotion," states Hilton. She refers to her instrument as her “true voice"—the means through which she speaks and connects: “When I play, I'm communicating our world through the notes." Inspired by artists as diverse as Count Basie, Muddy Waters, Steve Reich, and Green Day, Hilton chooses a natural musical palette for an authentic and expressive sound. “As an American composer and pianist, I embrace or reference our great traditional music: jazz, blues, minimalism, Americana, and our songbook of standards, in a way that is thoroughly embedded in the twenty-first century."

Returning to Avatar Studios this past January with the same ensemble she used for the critically-acclaimed, Underground, Hilton says, “Larry brings a NorCal flavor, however subtle, which has its own brand of jazz and blues history. He is very textural in his playing, which is a good foil for my piano," she notes. JD Allen was selected thanks to his “warm, expressive tone and deep Detroit roots. I think JD has the richest tenor tone in the history of the instrument, and has his own rhythmic sense and style," she explains. Nasheet Waits is “one of the most creative drummers on the scene today. I am always surprised by my band mates—all leaders in their own right—and by what they add," says Hilton. “We don't overdub or fuss much with the tracks... If you work with great people, you don't need to do too much." As for the recording process itself, “I care about the take that has the most soul, not the 'perfect' take."

“I am a band leader, a pianist and a producer. But I think first and foremost I am a composer," notes Hilton. “It's important for our generation to produce original material that will be played for years, not just repeat tunes from the past. This means finding a bridge between improvising and through composed music."

American Impressions presents ten of the leader's original compositions, as well as interpretations of Duke Ellington's “Echoes of Harlem" and Joni Mitchell's “Rainy Night House." The song titles clearly connote the subject matter and moods she chooses to explore, from the opening “Too Hot" to “Anatomy of the Blues," “Subway" and “When it Rains." Hilton's emotionally translucent playing allows listeners to hear how a composer's palette can “paint" musically. She creates intimate, approachable performances that draw listeners in through shared experiences and emotions, employing an impressionistic methodology within the framework of adventurous musical dialog. “There are many new facets of jazz, and I think they're all valid," Hilton explains. “The music of today combines elements of different genres, improvisation, experimentation with the instrument, unusual key signatures etc. The impressionistic approach I employ is valid, has historical precedent and has a new sound and vibe. It's not the only thing happening; it's good that there are a lot of new and different things going on, but this is what I'm going with." What she does in addition, is experiment with melody, blues, minimalist touches and dissonance. “Jazz really has expanded beyond a vehicle for improvisation; what we have recorded here is 21st century American jazz."

Through her work as a bandleader and composer, Hilton hopes to serve as a positive role model for the next generation of female musicians. She also continues to work with people who are visually impaired and with the multi-handicapped blind. “I think we have made great strides for women and for minorities in our society, but we need to help those with physical disabilities as well." This spring she will be offering several youth-oriented workshops, visiting The Junior Blind of America in L.A., The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, the historic Perkins School for the Blind, and Berklee's new Adaptive Lab for the Blind. “I feel lucky to work with these students," she says.


March 27, 2012 :: Junior Blind of America (special event for students with disabilities), Los Angeles

March 29, 2012 :: The Joynt, Chicago, as part of a special night for The Chicago Lighthouse Foundation, Solo piano

April 12, 2012 :: Catalina Jazz Club, Hollywood—CD Launch Party

May 18, 2012 :: Biscuits & Blues, San Francisco

September 13, 2012 :: Scullers Jazz Club, Boston

November 1, 2012 :: Cafe 939, Boston

November 2, 2012 :: Barnes Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca NY

This story appears courtesy of Kim Smith Public Relations.
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