Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (february 27 - march 5): Lisa Hilton
Lisa Hilton / Bio
With what has been described as a "throbbing undercurrent of West Coast Cool", critically acclaimed composer, pianist and bandleader, Lisa Hilton, "has been compared, to some of the best pianists in history, such as Bill Evans, and Brad Mehldau" in the book "The New Face of Jazz" by Cicly Janus, (Random House), and to such diverse musicians as Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, Erik Satie, and even Debussy, but Hilton's sound and touch are all her own. Dubbed by JazzReview a "Lioness" of Jazz", Hilton has continually worked with some of the greatest jazz musicians on the planet: Christian McBride, Lewis Nash, Larry Grenadier, Bobby Militello, Jeremy Pelt, J. D. Allen, Brice Winston, Gregg August, Rudy Royston, Reggie McBride and Steve Wilson to name a few, producing an album a year of her own compositions and arrangements. She has also recorded her recent releases with the legendary, twenty - time Grammy winning engineer/producer, Al Schmitt. Her music continues to receive high marks, longevity in radio airplay in the US, Canada and around the world, and is regularly featured on syndicated programs like NPR's Morning Edition for what DownBeat Magazine calls, "A deeply expressive style - rich melodies and improvisations and an appealing impressionism". Hilton has 12 stateside CD's and 130+ tracks on iTunes.
Lisa Hilton was born in San Luis Obispo, a small Southern California town, into a very musical family. Passionate about the piano from a young age, she was later inspired by stories of her great uncle, Willem Bloemendaal (1910-1937 Vlaardingen, Netherlands), a young Dutch virtuoso pianist. A simple colored keyboard guide allowed Hilton to teach herself to play the piano at six, and composing tunes soon followed. She avidly began the formal study of classical and twentieth century piano literature at eight, accompanied the school chorus at nine, led the flutes in the school band by ten, and later, accompanied high school theatre productions on the piano. As a teen, playing Standards and blues replaced Bartok and Beethoven. In San Francisco at college, she studied with a renowned piano instructor, who was also known as a demanding teacher and perfectionist. Disillusioned with the classical canon and overly rigid teaching methods, Hilton suddenly opted out of the piano, switched her studies, and graduated with an art degree. Now Hilton often speaks that her passions of music and art are combined and as the role of a musician as an artist in the world at large; "Music is an art. You need to know instinctually what to do." In 1997, on hearing a neighbor, multi Grammy winning producer/composer David Foster, discuss composing, her long lost love for music and the piano was reignited. "I think I was always a composer at heart," Hilton recalls, "but as a young girl in a small town, I had no awareness that I could create a career out of what I enjoy doing. I now have a deep and abiding love for the piano which seems even stronger after not playing for so many years".
The difficulties she experienced with her own music education, has led Hilton to contribute to music programs for children and teens, especially for those that serve the blind or the visually impaired. She has performed benefit concerts for Helen Keller's alma mater, Perkins School for the Blind, near Boston (2006, 2007), The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, (2009, 2010), and The Junior Blind of America, (2010), Camp Bloomfield for the visually impaired, (1998, 1999) and ArtsReach (Malibu, CA). Hilton has also spoken to students at The Grammy Museum (2010) and other locations.
Performances: Hilton loves to perform: “I have a need to share our world musically. I have an incredible band, but the solo shows that I do also go over really well with audiences”. Hilton explains how her compositions or arrangements were inspired, to draw listeners in to her instrumental jazz. “I’ve had adults ecstatically proclaim that they could really hear what I was communicating – that they could really ‘get it!’ Others have been moved to tears, or call an evening ‘magical’, and then I’ve had teens shout out ‘YOU ROCK!’ Touching others musically is really what I desire to do.”
Radio: Hilton’s music is played on hundreds of radio stations in the U.S., Canada and around the world, and has been featured prominently on shows like NPR’s Morning Edition, various airlines and XM. Broadly appealing to all ages, Hilton’s albums appeared on many radio charts such as JazzWeek, CMJ, and Earshot Jazz/Canada.
Television: Hilton has been featured on CBS/Boston and WGN/Chicago.
Written Word: A published author, Lisa Hilton has also written for Jazz Times and Jazziz magazine. She is currently working on a book about musicianship, and appears in the Random House book, “The New Face of Jazz”, by Cicily Janus. She has had a music blog on her website since 2001.
Workshops: Due to the challenges in her own music education, Hilton is now very committed to music programs for children, teens and college students. Hilton also enjoys working with people who are blind or visually impaired, such as programs at Perkins School for the Blind near Boston, the Junior Blind of America's Camp Bloomfield in Malibu, and The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired
Favorite jazz pianists: Brad Mehldau, McCoy Tyner.
Musical influences: Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk