Lisa Hilton: The New York Sessions

The incongruities of this album are unique. Lisa Hilton is a smooth, fluid pianist whose version of jazz is accessible, pop-inflected and sweetly romantic. Her choices of repertoire (“Both Sides Now,” “Emily”) and the slightly cloying titles and melodies of her own compositions (“Listen to Your Heart,” “Just Want to Be With You,” “Where Are You Now?”) reflect her propensity for sentiment.

The pop cultural ambience here is enhanced by the presence of engineer Al Schmitt, who has recorded many platinum-certified albums for such artists as Barbra Streisand, Steely Dan, Natalie Cole and Diana Krall. The New York Sessions has the midrange presence and bass snap that make Al Schmitt recordings sound good on AM radio.

The incongruities come when Hilton (who is based in Malibu) dials into this mix (light as a Malibu breeze) four take-no-prisoners heavy-duty New York jazz cats. Christian McBride and Lewis Nash inject authority and crispness into the trio pieces. Jeremy Pelt and Steve Wilson harden Hilton’s soft edges (even though their solo space is surprisingly limited).

If you have been looking for a gentle, non-threatening introduction to jazz, perhaps for a square but deserving friend, this is your album.