Talk about prolific musicians. Jazz pianist and composer Lisa Hilton is out with her 16th album, Kaleidoscope, on March 11. Although abundance is no guarantee of quality, when it comes to Hilton’s work there’s no need to worry.
This is a musician with a clear vision of what she wants to accomplish and the talent to make that vision a reality. As she says in a recent blog post: “The concept of the album is to take musical or compositional ideas and mixing and shifting them in new ways—just like the ever changing shapes inside a kaleidoscope. The beauty inside the child’s toy is from the different shapes and colors—the variety, and that is what we are doing musically—mixing both old and new jazz elements together to create jazz that works for the twenty first century.”
The album features 11 tracks, 10 of which she is joined by Larry Grenadier on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. She does a solo take on one song, her stylish “Stepping Into Paradise.” On three tracks, J.D. Allen joins in on tenor sax. He opens the set with the trio on “Simmer” and returns for the exotic “Labyrinth” and the manic “Midnight Mania.” They work together well, and one can only hope there is more work in store for the quartet.
Not that there is anything to complain about when it comes to Hilton’s trio. This is a pianist that gets your attention and keeps it. She plays with a depth of feeling that uses all the colors of her instrument. There are a lot of great jazz pianists, but Lisa Hilton takes a back seat to none of them. She has her own voice, and she makes sure it is heard. Whether it is the album’s title song, its quirkily alliterative “Bach/Basie/Bird Boogie,” or the almost otherworldly “Whispering Confessions,” her music follows her kaleidoscopic mantra—beauty in variety.
Nine of the tunes are original Hilton pieces. The outliers are an elegant treatment of the classic “When I Fall in Love” and her rich version of Adele’s pop hit, “One and Only.” If you like your piano jazz, Lisa Hilton’s Kaleidoscope is an album you will want to hear. On the other hand if you don’t think you care for piano jazz, Lisa Hilton may well change your mind.