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November 2006

Lisa Hilton
Midnight in Manhattan
Ruby Slippers

Pianist Lisa Hilton has stitched together a self-described profile of Manhattan-bearing titles like “City Streets,” “Warm Summer Night,” “Sunday Morning,” “Late Night” and the title track. The titles are not only interchangeable; they’re totally meaningless. Hilton did not succeed in fashioning an urban travelogue via mini-tone poems. What results from her repetitious meanderings is a study in monotony.

The only oases in this desert of dullness are two familiar standards, “Moon River” and “Over the Rainbow”: The former is enhanced by the alto sax of former Brubeck reedman Bobby Militello; the latter a cleverly reharmonized solo vehicle for Hilton. The only other non-Hilton tunes—Percy Mayfield’s “Hit the Road, Jack” and Miles Davis’ “So What”—show the weakness in the leader’s head arrangements plus her inability to swing convincingly. When Hilton takes her “jazz” chorus on “So What,” she plays the bass line with her left hand, doubled by bassist Reggie McBride. She “rewards” him with his only solo of the session. Little is heard from drummer John Friday, but he’s there, rounding out the quartet. More of Militello would have helped considerably.

Originally published in November 2006
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