Lisa Hilton (musician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Lisa Hilton
Hilton live at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood
Photo: Ron Hall
Background information
Birth name Lisa Kristine Hilton
Origin San Luis Obispo, California
Genres Jazz, jazz standards, classical
  • Pianist
  • Composer
  • Arranger
  • Producer
  • Bandleader
  • Musician
Years active 1997–present
Labels Ruby Slippers Productions, EvoSound, Ltd.
Associated acts

Lisa Kristine Hilton is an American jazz pianist, bandleader, producer and composer [1] based in the greater Los Angeles area. Hilton's post-bop compositions are considered to be highly impressionistic,[2] which she expresses in an evocative playing style.[3] Hilton is considered a prolific composer, for over a decade she has been producing an album a year of instrumental compositions which blend traditional American jazz and blues along with minimalism, classical, and avant garde modes.[4] Since the early 2000s she has recorded with many of the current top stars of Jazz, including Antonio Sanchez, Larry Grenadier, Christian McBride,[5] Sean Jones[6] and others.

Early years[edit]

Hilton was born in San Luis Obispo, a small town on California's central coast. Her father was a college professor and her mother was an accountant.[7] At approximately the age of six, she began playing piano, first teaching herself to play with a colored keyboard guide and composing simple songs.[8] Later she was inspired by stories of her great uncle (Dutch pianist and prodigy, Willem Bloemendaal [1910–1937). Though her early years were dominated by classical music and 20th-century music study,[9] in her teens she became interested in jazz standards and blues compositions.[10] Seeing the classic blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in concert had a lasting impact, as did the music of jazz pioneers Jelly Roll Morton, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters. Hilton accompanied the piano for her grammar school glee club starting in third grade, later joining orchestra and band on flute, and performed piano scores for high school musicals.

Hilton moved to San Francisco to study piano, but soon dropped out discouraged by the lack of creativity in the program.[11] As a college student exposed to conceptual art and other art forms, she put music aside for a time to complete a degree in art and design. Upon returning to music, Hilton was drawn to the creative possibilities of jazz. Hilton often mentions that she draws on her background in art to create compositions, "painting', and 'sculpting' her compositions with musical and jazz concepts.[12]

Return to the piano[edit]

In 1997, Hilton's interest in music was reignited by a neighbor: Grammy award-winning producer/composer David Foster.[13] Hilton resumed her studies in theory and composition with composer Charles Bernstein, and other professors at UCLA. Hilton's first recording, Seduction (1997),[14] was a solo piano release, and since that time, she has made jazz composition her full time endeavor, composing and recording about one album a year. The recordings include a combination of her original compositions and her arrangements of jazz standard tunes.

Hilton began working in 2005 with the acclaimed multi-Grammy winning engineer, Al Schmitt, and they have continued working together ever since, working alongside other top recording engineers as Doug Sax, Gavin Lurssin, and James Farber. She has been the producer on each album and has been a voting member of the Producers and Engineers Wing of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) since 2003.


Hilton has received steady acclaim for her compositions. She cites Thelonious Monk,[15] Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Horace Silver[16] as her most important compositional influences. Hilton continues to evolve as a composer, using jazz concepts like improv, free jazz and shifting modal key centers for impressionistic compositions like "When it Rains."[17] Hilton continues to use ideas from other art forms, using jazz concepts in a "painterly" fashion. "French composers like Debussy used harmonic 'impressionism,' but I like to use improvisational ideas in an impressionistic way," she told Phil Freeman of Burning Ambulance. "Seurat's pointillism technique is something I have applied to music, for example." "Music feels like my first language," she added. "It feels like I can create an experience compositionally that allows others to also feel that experience, much like a good writer being able to describe love, or a painter or photographer creating an image. I think I can compose and play the sound of twilight, of a warm summer's day, of love or grief, of a subway or dolphins even. I think of my – and our – music as abstract or non-figurative paintings."[18]

Hilton is now venturing into longer musical forms compositionally, merging her classical background with her admiration of American music: exploring twenty first century trans- or poly-genre compositions, lacing jazz on top of classical forms, as in "Midnight Sonata", from the "Nocturnal" album.[19]

Later life and career[edit]

As a bandleader, Hilton taps inventive jazz players, consistently seeking to play with other leaders as well as expressive players of great renown, including bassists Christian McBride and Larry Grenadier, drummers Antonio Sanchez. Nasheet Waits and Lewis Nash, trumpeters Sean Jones and Terrel Stafford, and saxophonists J.D. Allen III, Steve Wilson, Brice Winston, and Bobby Militello.[20] Hilton is rather unique in that the numbers of female band leaders, who are not singers, remains relatively small in jazz.[21]


Inspired by the composer Joni Mitchell retaining ownership of her intellectual property,[22] Hilton created her own publishing company, Lisa Hilton Music that was later trademarked. Her record label, Ruby Slippers Productions was established in 2001. Hilton is a full voting member of National Music Publishers Association.

Personal life and influences[edit]

Hilton has lived in Malibu, CA for over two decades, which was also the adopted home for many other jazz musicians such as Stan Getz, Joe Zawinul, Miles Davis, Herb Alpert and the current home of composer Johnny Mandel. Hilton has often cited the abundant nature in the mountains, waterfalls and beaches in her area for the inspiration for her compositions such as The Sky and the Ocean from the HORIZONS album.[23] Staying true to her influences both as a player and composer, Hilton remains driven by the quality of musical impression, a unique characteristic that is most often noted in her reviews:

"Her music offers a unique blend of concepts, and of past and future, that’s quite beautiful, without ever being placid or overly studied. Time to catch up, folks." – Phil Freeman, Burning Ambulance[24]

“A deeply expressive style . . . rich melodies and improvisations . . . and an appealing impressionism.” – Philip Booth, Downbeat Magazine[25]

"Although Lisa Hilton has been compared to some of the best pianists in history, such as Bill Evans and Brad Mehldau, her sound and style are of her own." – Cicily Janus, The New Face of Jazz[26]

"[Hilton's compositions] almost always demand your deepest investigation, concentration." – Giovanni Russonello, Capitol Bop, A Complete D.C. Jazz Guide[27]

"Lisa Hilton is a jazz musician, composer, and band leader of incredible sensibility and nuance that, along with a beautifully evocative style of playing, places her at the very top." – Hugh "Hurricane" Carson, DJ, KVNF-FM, Paonia, CO

"H O R I Z O N S personifies nature through the cultured balance of melody, harmony, cadence, and texture so rich the listener can almost feel the notes through the amps." – Carol Banks Weber,[28]

"A distinctive and thought provoking composer and pianist." –[29]

"Mastery of the keyboard...her music offers a unique blend of concepts and of past and future that's quite beautiful." – Phil Freeman, Burning Ambulance[30]

"Lisa Hilton is one of the finest musical impressionists…" – Ken Frankling, Jazz Notes[31]

"Melodic gifts and song-form clarity as both a composer and a player…" – Jeff Simon, Listening Post, Buffalo News[32]

"Speaks subtly of Satie and sublimely of Ellington … and a whirl of Brubeckian piano…." – Michael Verity, Jazz Expert,[33]

"Hilton's compositions and melodies bear repeat listening…" – Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition[34]

Work with the blind and visually-impaired[edit]

Acting on her belief that young musicians will build a new generation of jazz traditions, Hilton works to support music programs for children and teens, particularly those that are blind or visually-impaired. She has performed benefit concerts, conducted workshops and played with young musicians at the historic Perkins School for the Blind,[35] near Boston, The Chicago Lighthouse[36] for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, the Junior Blind of America and their Camp Bloomfield in Malibu, and the Adaptive Technology Lab at Berklee College of Music in Boston, among other youth-oriented programs.


  • Seduction (1997, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • Playing by Heart (1999, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • Cocktails at Eight... (2000, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • Feeling Good (2001, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • In the Mood for Jazz (2003, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • Jazz After Hours (2004, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • My Favorite Things (2005, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • Midnight in Manhattan (2006, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • After Dark (2007, Lisa Hilton Music®, EvoSound, Ltd.)
  • The New York Sessions (2007, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • So This Is Love (2008, Lisa Hilton Music®, EvoSound, Ltd.)
  • Sunny Day Theory (2008, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • Twilight & Blues (2009, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • Nuance (2010, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • Underground (2011, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • American Impressions (2012, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • Getaway (2013, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • Kaleidoscope (2014, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • H O R I Z O N S (2015, Lisa Hilton Music®, Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • Nocturnal (2016, Lisa Hilton Music®, & Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • DAY & NIGHT (2016, Lisa Hilton Music®, & Ruby Slippers Productions)
  • ESCAPISM (2017, Lisa Hilton Music® & Ruby Slippers Productions)


  1. ^ "Lisa Hilton to Release New Album "Nuance" June 8th". All About Jazz. Retrieved 4 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Stober, Karl. "Twilight & Blues by Lisa Hilton". Jazz Review. Retrieved 16 March 2009. 
  3. ^ "Lisa Hilton in Concert". Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  4. ^ "LIsa Hilton". Jazztimes. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  5. ^ Freeman, Phil. "Interview: Lisa Hilton". Burning Ambulance. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  6. ^ Weber, Carol Banks. "Lisa Hilton's 'H O R I Z O N S': Ultimate expression of art in jazz impressions". 
  7. ^ "Lisa Hilton". All About Jazz. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  8. ^ Wilkins, Woodrow. "Lisa Hilton: New York Sessions". All About Jazz. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  9. ^ Plourde, Brenton. "Lisa Hilton, Twilight and Blues". JazzTimes, Inc. Retrieved 3 January 2010. 
  10. ^ Mullikin, Patrick Timothy. "malibu's music corner: 'Twilight & Blues'". Malibu Times. Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  11. ^ "Alum Lisa Hilton to Perform at Pepperdine University". San Francisco State University. 
  12. ^ Freeman, Phil. "Interview: Lisa Hilton". Burning Ambulance. 
  13. ^ Stober, Karl. "Between Sets with Lisa Hilton... A Diamond Sculpted from Ivory". Jazz Review. Retrieved 1 February 2006. 
  14. ^ Hilton, Lisa. "Seduction". CD Baby. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  15. ^ "Meet Lisa Hilton". All About Jazz. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  16. ^ "Lisa Hilton". Jazztimes. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  17. ^ Montague, Joe. "Jazz Composer and Pianist Lisa Hilton: Dolphins, Waterfalls and American Impressions". Riveting Riffs. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  18. ^ Freeman, Phil. "Interview: Burning Ambulance". Burning Ambulance. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  19. ^ "USA: Lisa Hilton (Nocturnal) 2016". World Jazz News. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  20. ^ Lush, Brian. "ALL i HAVE iS BLUE". Rockwired Media LLC. Retrieved 16 March 2009. 
  21. ^ Johnson, David Brent. "The Women in Charge of the Band". A Blog Supreme. NPR. 
  22. ^ "Sony/Atv Music Publishing And Joni Mitchell Enter into Worldwide Agreement". 
  23. ^ Vejar, Alex. "Resident music composer to return to Pepperdine for performance". Malibu Surfside News. 22nd Century Media, LLC. 
  24. ^ Freeman, Phil. "Interview: Lisa Hilton". Burning Ambulance. 
  25. ^ Booth, Philip. "Lisa Hilton: Twilight and Blues". Downbeat. 
  26. ^ Janus, Cicily (2010). The New Face of Jazz. Random House. p. 352. ISBN 978-0-8230-0065-4. 
  27. ^ Russonello, Giovanni. "Lisa Hilton, a pianist who builds thick harmonic textures, flies solo at Twins on Thursday". CapitolBop. 
  28. ^ Weber, Carol Banks. "Lisa Hilton's 'H O R I Z O N S': Ultimate expression of art in jazz impressions". Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  29. ^ "Pianist/Composer LISA HILTON Explores Evolution of Nature Through Sound, Melody and Improvisation on H O R I Z O N S". Bop N Jazz. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  30. ^ Freeman, Phil. "Interview: Lisa Hilton". Burning Ambulance. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  31. ^ Frankling, Ken. "Lisa Hilton Nocturnal". Ken Franklings Jazz Notes. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  32. ^ Simon, Jeff. "Listening Post: Maestra Falletta tackles Stravinsky, jazz from Lisa Hilton, piano recitals from Grigory Sokolov". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  33. ^ Verity, Michael. "New Jazz Releases – January 2016". Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  34. ^ Krow, Jeff. "Lisa Hilton – Nocturnal – Ruby Slippers". Audiophile Audition. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  35. ^ Archer, Carol. "Composer, Jazz Pianist Lisa Hilton To Perform at Perkins School". Dun & Bradstreet. Retrieved 20 November 2006. 
  36. ^ Walseth, Brad. "Jazz Pianist shows big Heart in Working with Blind Musicians". Jazz Chicago. Retrieved 8 January 2007. 

External links[edit]