Throughout a 20-year recording career, pianist Lisa Hilton has demonstrated a well-honed knack for choosing supportive accompanists—for 2015’s Horizons, her previous release, that meant first-call players like Sean Jones (trumpet), JD Allen (saxophone) and Rudy Royston (drums). Going the solo route for Day & Night, Hilton was well aware of the empty spaces she’d be willfully confronting. It’s to her credit that she knows, intuitively, when to try to fill them and when to revel in the openness that the absence of others creates.
Hilton has said that Day & Night is inspired by Cole Porter’s melodicism—the album title is a play on his composition “Night and Day,” and the only non-original in the set is Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” taken at a leisurely, meditative pace, its melody dipped in melancholy. For all of the emphasis on melody though, Hilton doesn’t skimp on solid rhythmic grounding when it’s called for: On the uptempo, bolero-esque opener, “Caffeinated Culture,” her left hand is hyper-busy, maintaining the sprightly tempo while her right feels its way around until the pianist finally lets her fingers go where they’ve been aching to go all along.