Lisa Hilton’s CD, The New York Sessions, which hits the streets on August 27, creates a gentle ambience that entices you to crack open a fine bottle of wine and relax in the company of friends, reflecting upon cherished memories and sharing dreams for the future.
The CD opens with Joni Mitchell’s classic tune "Both Sides Now," interpreted by Hilton in the traditional sense. The CD ends with somewhat of an epilogue and Hilton’s alternate take on the Mitchell tune, a reading that I found particularly inspiring and enjoyable.
Some of Hilton’s best performances, however, are saved for her own compositions and ranking right up there is the number two track "Over And Over Again," a lively and happy pop/jazz melody that is endeared to you with just a few opening bars. Hilton’s nimble fingers lead the charge and drummer Lewis Nash helps maintain the tempo. The piece filled me with the same joy I experienced many years ago while basking in the music of internationally renowned Canadian composer/pianist André Gagnon.
One of the prettier pieces on this CD comes to us from Johnny Mandel’s songbook, the song "Emily." Hilton demonstrates a thoughtful sensibility with her piano solo and creates that same feeling you get when cuddling with someone special by an open fire.
The thing that strikes me about The New York Sessions, and separates the CD from a lot of piano-focused discs, is Hilton’s ability to infuse the songs with personality. "Seduction" comes across as sassy. She parlays "Both Sides Now" into a song of reflection as it should be, and on "Where Are You Now," Steve Wilson’s saxophone combines with Hilton’s keys to create a sense of longing. There is a whole lot of attitude in the boogie woogie interpretation of Ray Charles’ "A Bit Of Soul." Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt almost upstages Hilton’s chops as he blows some cheeky notes.
Throughout the CD, critically acclaimed bassist Christian McBride proves his versatility with subtle accompaniments, and then on other pieces, establishing a walking bass line.
The album is excellently produced and one would expect nothing less at the fingertips and ears of one of the industry’s best, 18-time Grammy Award winning engineer and producer, Al Schmitt. The CD is cohesive. The songs are well ordered and each naturally flows into the one that follows. Seven of the twelve tracks are Hilton's original compositions, accompanied by the aforementioned covers, as well as her interpretation of Thelonius Monk’s "Epistrophy."
Punch those credit card numbers into your favorite online digital store and download some great piano chops.