Lisa Hilton returns to solo piano on ‘Day & Night’
Lisa Hilton Music

Day & Night echoes my commitment to discover and savor everyday moments: to see the beauty in a day from the first glow of sunrise to the dimming sky at sunset, and to acknowledge and share these rich times with others,” Lisa Hilton expressed in the opening page of her album’s liner notes.

With this sentiment, the classical-jazz pianist and composer muses on singular themes throughout her Day & Night outing. Of the 10 tracks, only the third belongs to another composer from another age, Cole Porter on “Begin The Beguine,” a favorite of esoteric, ambitious jazz instrumentalists everywhere.

Hilton took Porter’s language of love to heart, using his style as a launching pad for her own compositions, even naming the album after his classic tune, “Night And Day,” with a flip.

“I have always appreciated Cole Porter’s strong melodies and gentle Latin rhythms,” Porter said in a DL Media press release. “… I have always admired our great American composers Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Horace Silver and Count Basie, who were able to write strong melodies, as well as creating lush musical landscapes.”

Hilton takes her time on the tunes, riding on an even, mellow score (“Caffeinated Culture”), then bursting in a flurry. Hilton elaborates on one or two main themes, easing into the melodic movement, hovering over the promise of change without really throwing a whole lot of ideas out there.

But she doesn’t need to. Whatever she focuses on becomes this glowing ember, spitting fire.

“Stepping Into Paradise” is comparable to Porter’s “Begin The Beguine,” both full of spacial complexity in a melodic numbers game.

Her exceptional “Seduction” is a distant, moody cousin, spilling over with crystal goblets full of notes on a slightly tipsy walk to the exit. She mirrors the essence of the Great American Songwriters, while shining a spotlight on her own unique ability to interpret the very core of a song into a combination of story and feeling.

She also does this very well on “So This Is Love,” featuring her gradually pressing the gas on the inclines, the waves to a shore, working the notes toward some ultimate reward. Visually, the listener is reminded of two shy people slowly sidling up toward one another at a party in furtive glances.

A hallmark of Hilton’s music, whether she’s playing solo or with a world-renowned band, is her genteel impressionism, a kind of art form itself. “While Louis Armstrong was performing, Monet was painting water lilies and French composers like Debussy were using harmonic impressionism,” Hilton said, also in the press release. “As a composer today, I explore music as art, building the composition with musical elements then ‘painting’ texture and color through various jazz approaches. I might apply Seurat’s pointillism ideas to improvisation, creating new ways of expressing our life today.”

Lisa Hilton recorded her 19th album, Day & Night (Ruby Slippers Productions), at the historic Capitol Studios in Hollywood with 23-time Grammy®-winning engineer Al Schmitt and Grammy®-winning engineer Gavin Lurssen, who mastered the album.

She performs next at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York Jan. 10, before heading to the Old Church in Portland, Ore. Feb. 3.