Lisa Hilton


A Kaleidoscope uses several mirrors to create multiple reflections and typically there are three rectangular mirrors set at 60° to each other so that they form an equilateral triangle. The 60° angle creates seven duplicate images of the object being observed, five at 60°, and 2 at 90°. As the tube is rotated, the tumbling of the colored objects presents varying colors and patterns. Arbitrary patterns show up as a beautiful symmetrical patterns created by the reflections. Pianist and composer Lisa Hilton has created a new CD that uses four musicians to create tumbling musical images of historically based modern jazz in her new CD on Ruby Slippers Productions, Kaleidoscope.

Hilton spent her childhood studying classical and twentieth century piano formally from the age of eight, Hilton left music behind in college to pursue a degree in art. "In retrospect, the years studying art from impressionism to the conceptualists has added to my musical 'palette' - my music is now my art. I use musical elements to paint and later sculpt the sound after I have a compositional form," explains, Hilton. She is committed to helping students who are often overlooked, making a special effort to be involved with students who are blind or visually impaired. Whether performing for, with, or teaching, Hilton has worked with the Perkins School for the Blind (Helen Keller's alma mater), The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, The Junior Blind for America, Camp Bloomfield for the Blind and Berklee College of Music's new lab for the visually impaired. "I believe that helping those with physical disabilities is an important civil rights issue today," says Hilton. "We really need to extend to those that are dealing with extra challenges, and technology today can go a long ways to leveling the playing field."

Kaleidoscope is Hilton’s 16th release, and features drummer Marcus Gilmore, bassist Larry Grenadier and on three tracks, tenor saxist J.D. Allen. “The goal of an artist is to express what is happening in our world and create a connection that others hear, see or feel,” Hilton describes. “The last few years have been challenging to so many and it feels we need to somehow, shift our perspective – like a kaleidoscope shifts its pretty pieces, and view our world and lives with a new point of view – that’s what each of us can do on a daily basis. Musically we are taking the elements of music and jazz, and shifting them into ‘new’ configurations that are hopefully, delightful to the ear. Kaleidoscope is about personal change as well as musical progress.”

Of the eleven tracks on Kaleidoscope Hilton pens all but two, “When I Fall in Love” by Heyman and Young and Adele’s “One and Only,” a new pop jazz standard.

“Midnight Mania” begins with Hilton setting up the mid tempo feel on the piano with an eight note piano figure that is eventually augmented by Grenadier’s bass figure that neatly fits into Hiltons left hand, Gilmore’s light cymbal work and Allen’s rich saxophone fills. After a harmonic turn the riff type melody is stated by Hilton and Allen over the original piano and bass figure, yielding a Horace Silver type of vibe. Hilton throws in a flurry of sixteenth notes leading to Allen’s tenor saxophone solo. Allen starts by building on melodic fragments from the melody and then quickly moving to bursts of notes as the band slowly dissects the feel, getting more and more “free” with the groove, but never losing the time and energy. Hilton’s original figure ends Allen’s solo and starts the build again. Gilmore’s drum work is especially expressive and Hilton and Grenadier work very well together in the lower end to keep things focused and moving. Allen again returns with fills over the piano and bass figure, his lines are flowing and tinted with the blues. The band again slowly releases the feel to a logical ending statement. The interesting element of this track is the old tried and true AABA form with a piano solo followed by a sax solo is abandoned. The selection has a form, but the band as a whole shapes the form as much as the written material does. This is certainly a colorful perspective of beautiful symmetrical patterns presented by four individuals to form a whole pattern of musical symmetries and pleasing concepts, but refreshingly outside the box.

Pianist/composer Lisa Hilton again delivers an outstanding collection of tunes that is focused on balancing the simple and complex. Hilton’s precision as a performer and creative compositions champion the less-is-more approach and should appeal to a wide reaching audience of listeners. Kaleidoscope is full of great music, Hilton and Allen speak the same melodic language and Grenadier and Gilmore push and pull the beat in truly interesting ways.

Players: Lisa Hilton/piano; Larry Grenadier/bass; Marcus Gilmore/drums; J.D. Allen/tenor sax

Tracks: Simmer; Whispered Confessions; Labyrinth; When I Fall In Love; Bach, Basie, Bird Boogie Blues Bop; Kaleidoscope; Midnight Mania; Blue Horizon; Stepping Into Paradise; One and Only; Sunny Side Up.

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H. Allen Williams