Review by Brad Walseth
West-coaster, Lisa Hilton is back with a new album that may be just the ticket for those plagued by gloomy weather and the recent financial bad news. Hilton herself suffered through a year of loss with the deaths of mother and close friend Joe Zawinul, among other turmoil, and came through her despair with a positive solution, that beyond any bad day, a sunny day exists. She puts her theory to the task with several new tunes, and some interesting covers, on her new release, featuring the crack team of Lewis Nash on drums, Larry Grenadier on bass and Brice Winston on tenor sax. These musicians take Hilton's upbeat compositions and fly with them. Case in point: album opener "Heat Wave," where Winston shreds on this Erroll Garner-inspired mambo.
Woke up a couple days ago to "Melt Down" being played on NPR and I think that is a good sign for this catchy rhythmic piece. Meanwhile, "So Blue" is a rolling blues (of course), while the melancholy "After the Fire" presents a scorched landscape evoking the fires that burned near Hilton's Malibu home last year. But the gloom is overcome in the interesting title track, where hope shines through the winter sky. Hilton is at her romantic best on the original "So This is Love," a joyous standard-like piece. And the pianist's solo turn on the lovely Malibu morning is reflective and leads into "Sunset on the Beach" - a nice trio setting with a light Latin feel.
Hilton also covers Joni Mitchell's "Ladies of the Canyon," Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" (also solo) and Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," and to her credit crafts something new and personal out of these beloved tunes. The latter song also has the advantage of donating the proceeds from downloads to the Carter Center to advance the cause of peace and health worldwide. Rounding out the record, Hilton and her band take on her friend and neighbor, Joe Zawinul's "Mercy. Mercy, Mercy" in an earnest and funky rendition that I'm sure he would have enjoyed hearing. "Sunny Day Theory" is a nice and positive recording that is like a ray of sunshine in these dark times.
Lisa Hilton will be performing as a benefit for the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind on January 8th at Andy's Jazz Club.