Ruby Slippers Production, 2023.
By Jeff Cebulski | ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
West coast pianist Lisa Hilton is a prolific composer and performer who has released nearly 30 albums since her recording debut in 1997. Steeped in classic American jazz tropes, Hilton juxtaposed good look images with deep talent to develop an evident and progressive ethos within the jazz community. As the years went by, she was able to corral some of modern jazz’s premier players to self produce albums that featured her angular takes on popular themes while compiling many of her own works that mirrored artists like Bill Evans and Horace Silver.
After a series of trio recordings, Hilton’s latest release, Coincidental Moment, returns to a quartet ensemble, this time featuring Revive Big Band leader and trumpeter Igmar Thomas along with her current trio mates bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Rudy Royston.
(Hilton and this quartet will be featured at The Chicago Lighthouse Jazz Night, Tuesday, March 12, 7 p.m., at Winter's Jazz Club.)
The opening pieces, “Anxiety Society,” “Jagged Lil’ Blues,” and “Happily Go Luckily” clearly reflect Hilton’s predecessors, especially Silver and Jelly Roll Morton, in their Latin-tinged blues rhythms. Thomas is placed front-and-center to pronounce sly commentaries while Hilton displays her keyboard wizardry. Curtis is mixed next to Thomas while Royston, whose own classic style is well known, deftly handles the backbeats.
Those familiar tropes show up throughout, though Hilton has a way to twist them into interesting forms. Take the trio effort “Multiple Perspectives,” for example. The opening bars sound like they’re using “I Could Have Danced All Night” as a lift-off but the accompanying blues riff is that other perspective, perhaps an observation of competing cultures.
Hilton’s strengths are more evident when she is in ballad form, perhaps pointing back to her early days when her solo work gained attention. Her duet with Thomas on “Blue in Green” gives us an idea of what a Miles Davis-Bill Evans album would have sounded like. (And why didn’t that ever happen?) The closer, “Uncommon Poetry,” is her album’s alone moment, a chance to witness her in keyboard discovery mode.
“Everyday Anthem” has an alluring soul music vibe enhanced by Thomas’ Brownie-like, though abbreviated, asides.
There’s no real stretching out on these 11 well structured pieces, suggesting live renderings could be interesting, especially if Thomas, who is a prodigious, versatile talent, is able to express himself more.
Coincidental Moment adds to Lisa Hilton’s musical resume another solid recording in a career of self-defined, continual, and alluring art that attracts quality accompanists and fans of consistently rendered piano jazz. Her appearance in Chicago, which will include her commentary on composition, should be well worth the time in support of a worthy cause.
Lisa Hilton, Coincidental Moment. Ruby Slippers Production, 2023.
Lisa Hilton, piano
Luques Curtis, bass
Rudy Royston, drums
Igmar Thomas, trumpet
About Jeff Cebulski
Jeff Cebulski, who lives in Chicago, is a retired English educator (both secondary and collegiate) and longtime jazz aficionado. His career in jazz includes radio programs at two stations in southeast Wisconsin, an online show on Kennesaw State’s (GA) Owl Radio from 2007 until 2015, and review/feature writing for Chicago Jazz Magazine since 2016, including his column "Jazz With Mr. C". He has interviewed many jazz artists, including Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, John Beasley, and Chris Brubeck, as well as several Chicago-based players. Jeff is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association. Contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org