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CD Review: Lisa Hilton “Getaway”


It’s become an unusual thing to say in the context of a jazz album, but Lisa Hilton is a great songwriter. There is no doubt that Hilton is a superb jazz pianist. She is also unusually adept at constructing tunes that are far more then jams over chord progressions. As you listen to her new album, “Getaway,” you’ll hear one great tune after another in perfectly sparse trio arrangements. It’s an unexpected and totally welcome throwback to the days of composer/instrumentalists like Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck.

Like Monk and Brubeck, Hilton’s tunes have a distinct style to them. In her case, they are deliciously bluesy, but incorporate a decidedly contemporary stylistic flair, as evidenced by the Don Pullen-like dissonance on “Just for Fun.” Some of her compositions are deceptively simple at first, but watch out for the more advanced harmonies that show up.

Hilton has written some instant classics. It’s hard to imagine that a tune as beautiful as “Stepping into Paradise” will not have a life beyond this album. Eleven of the 13 songs on the album are originals. One is a classic, “Stormy Monday Blues,” and one is a surprise cover, “Turning Tables,” by the pop star Adele. It’s a wise choice, fitting in beautifully with a haunting quality similar to that of some of Hilton’s compositions. In fact, if you didn’t recognize it, you might think it was hers.

And Hilton’s band mates, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Nasheet Waits, are absolute masters of subtlety. The pair completes Hilton’s tunes with an enviable minimalist sensibility in a manner comparable to the classic Ahmad Jamal Trio.