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Lisa Hilton: Chalkboard Destiny

Mike Jurkovic By

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By finely feathering-in her Pacific cool to a gritty, more urban sense of persistent chaos, Chalkboard Destiny may very well be the ten-song set which places pianist Lisa Hilton well beyond the borders of West Coast fandom and East Coast fetishism and gathers her the wider audience she richly deserves.

And here's hoping, because Chalkboard Destiny and the quartet Hilton calls her own—drummer Rudy Royston, bassist Luques Curtis and JD Allen on tenor sax—create a vibe which is really hard to turn away from. Just press play anywhere on the disc and you won't be disappointed in any way. Just the opposite, to be exact. For there is a richness to the sound of four people playing music meant to capture your attention, as Hilton's intrigue makes her compositions more malleable than ever, opening time and space for her and her cohorts to re-imagine and define.

Royston's skittering and Curtis's deep tone pull you immediately into the blues-tango "Rush Hour Rhapsody" which opens Chalkboard Destiny's inescapable narrative. Hilton rolls darkly for and against Allen, whose solos, either with just the rhythm section or with Hilton onboard, are concise, yet spontaneous. "Sympathy For Blues" slithers in with an early-morning downtown groove, reminiscent of "Killer Joe," which each player makes their own; Hilton's solos captivate with their curlicue moments and classical gestures. Curtis roams past the bars and beats on the sheets and never loses the pull, as does Royston. Allen takes his liberties.

"Chalkboard Destiny," "Temporary Lullaby," and the elastic emotionality of Joni Mitchell's "Blue Boy" are the heart and soul of the disc, and what any listener of this grand language comes to the music for. The title track's crescendos climb high only to free fall at their peak into spotlit spaces for conga line and dance. The quiet depth achieved on "Temporary Lullaby" simply has to be heard, not spoken or written about. The quartet's expansive rendering of the fifty-year-old "Blue Boy" only proves that we share the same heart here, then, now, and forever.

Perhaps it is true that most women have to coax their male counterparts to the dance floor but not Hilton. "Tropic of Tango" has the guys tangoing about in a muscular yet stylish way. With no individual track running longer than 5 minutes and 49 seconds, Hilton packs a lot into small spaces such as "Cafe Au Mojo" and "Adventures & Alibis"; all readily attest to a recording that is simply one of the best of the year.

Track Listing: Rush Hour Rhapsody; Sympathy for Blues; Chalkboard Destiny; Temporary Lullaby; Blue Boy; Tropic of Tango; Waltz from Nowhere; Myths & Fantasy; Café Au Mojo; Adventures & Alibis.

Personnel: Lisa Hilton: piano; JD Allen: tenor saxophone; Rudy Royston: drums; Luques Curtis: bass.

Title: Chalkboard Destiny | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Ruby Slippers Productions

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