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Lisa Hilton

Lisa Hilton is a composer / pianist / bandleader / producer.

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About Me

Lisa Hilton is a composer/pianist/bandleader/producer who has been hailed as “One of the major voices in the modern jazz community” (The Jazz Messenger) and is compared to some of the best pianists in history in the book The New Face of Jazz for what Down Beat magazine recently noted: “Hilton clearly has a musical voice.” Hilton is especially recognized for her expressive and impressionistic approach at the keyboard. Although she has been compared to such diverse musicians as Brad Mehldau, Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, Erik Satie and even Debussy, Hilton is cited as, “A rarity that she displays a truly original voice,” (The Jazz Messenger).

Her compositions are exciting: rich in musical heritage, blues inflections, intelligent use of harmonic and rhythmic textures and imbued with warmth, beauty and soul. “I appreciate traditional jazz, but I am not a traditionalist, “ Hilton explains, “As a composer I admire the compositions of Miles Davis, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington and Muddy Waters, and I do reference them in a style that represents our cultural desire today to embrace our past. I also choose to be moving forward though in jazz and create new musical approaches”. The result is a fresh sound that is evocative, intelligent, engaging and redirecting jazz into the twentyfirst century. Dubbed by JazzReview a “Lioness of Jazz”, Hilton continually works with some of the greatest jazz musicians today: J. D. Allen, Luques Curtis, Rudy Royston, Larry Grenadier, Christian McBride, Nasheet Waits, Lewis Nash, Bobby Militello, Jeremy Pelt, Brice Winston, Billy Hart, Jaimeo Brown, Ameen Saleem and Steve Wilson. She produces an album a year of her own compositions and arrangements, now totaling over twenty stateside CD’s and around 300 tracks on iTunes. Hiltons’ music continues to receive critical acclaim, honors, awards and also longevity in radio airplay in the US, Canada and around the world.

Lisa Kristine Hilton was born in San Luis Obispo, a small Southern California town, into a very musical family. Passionate about the piano from a young age, she was later inspired by stories of her great uncle, Willem Bloemendaal (1910-1937 Vlaardingen, Netherlands), a young Dutch piano virtuoso. Hilton began the formal study of classical and twentieth century piano literature beginning at eight, and later began playing Standards, jazz and blues along with Bartok and Beethoven. Most teens would probably opt for rock concerts, but the first live show Hilton saw was the classic blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. “They seemed really old, and very cool by my teenage standards. I was also a big B.B. King fan in those days too.” Her interest in the expressive capabilities of music was soon to be challenged: at college in San Francisco, Hilton studied with a renowned classical pianist but became disillusioned with the conservative teaching methods and lack of creativity, so she switched her studies, and graduated with a degree in art and design. After many years, Hilton returned to the piano in 1997, and continued some coursework at UCLA. Hilton says that her passions for music and art are now combined: “Music is an art. You need to know instinctively what to do beyond studying technique, history and theory.”

The difficulties she experienced with her own music education has led Hilton to support music programs for children and teens, especially for those that serve the blind or the visually impaired. She has performed benefit concerts for Helen Keller’s alma mater, Perkins School for the Blind, (near Boston: 2006, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2018, 2020), The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, (since 2008), The Junior Blind of America, (Los Angeles - for ten years), Camp Bloomfield for those that are visually impaired, (Malibu/1998, 1999) and ArtsReach (2000/Malibu, CA). She has written about these experiences for Jazziz and Jazz Times Magazines.

Hilton now lives in Malibu, California and her compositions draw inspiration from other West Coast musical luminaries and one time Malibu residents such as Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Horace Silver, and her friend, the late Joe Zawinul. Besides composing, performing, recording, and producing, Hilton has authored a popular children’s book, and is currently working on a book on musicianship.

My Jazz Story

I love jazz because it always seems to put me in a good mood! I was first exposed to jazz as a teenager. I have met many of my jazz heroes! The best show I ever attended was perhaps Brad Mehldau trio, Victoria Hall/Geneva. The first jazz record I bought was - Kinda of Blue most likely My advice to new listeners - you'll discover what you like best! Or whatever else you have in mind. I think our entire world needs jazz to boost our collective spirits!

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