"Day & Night" is the nineteenth album from jazz pianist/composer Lisa Hilton and the twelfth that I have reviewed. Hilton usually records with her band, but once in awhile she releases a solo piano album, and this is one such album. It consists of nine original compositions and an arrangement of the Cole Porter classic, “Begin the Beguine.” (The title of the album was also a nod to Porter’s “Night and Day.”) When we did an interview back in 2006, Lisa and I chatted at length about the small number of women jazz pianists compared to men, and I’m not sure that has changed much. Classically-trained from a young age, Hilton has some very impressive playing chops, which are fully on display on this new album. Recorded on a Steinway D grand piano, Hilton’s touch varies from deep, plush velvet to electrifying extended trills, glissandos and runs up and down the piano keyboard. Fully in command of her instrument, I always really appreciate being able to listen to just her as a solo artist, although I enjoy the ensemble music, too.
"Day & Night" begins with “Caffeinated Culture,” an upbeat Latin-infused dance piece that gets things rolling with spirit and a smile. The title track is made up of a complex combination of themes and moods woven together to tell a story. Sometimes light and breezy and sometimes darker and more serious, it’s a fascinating study in contrasts. “Begin the Beguine” is truly an American classic and Hilton’s arrangement is fresh while remaining true to the original. “Sunrise” is delicate with shades of pastel colors and a sense of peaceful calm as the earth slowly comes back to life. “Stepping Into Paradise” is an interesting mix of musical genres that defies categorization. Bright and up-tempo, there are hints of blues, classical, pop and jazz that all work together well to make this a story told from a unique perspective. “A Spark in the Night” is a favorite. Bluesy and kind of slinky, it’s the perfect lead-in to “Seduction,” a piece that dates back to Hilton’s 1997 debut album by the same name and has appeared on six of her albums. In one of our interviews, Hilton said she has made “Seduction” her “signature piece,” but that it keeps changing. There’s nothing wrong with that! Listening to “Seduction” is always a treat with its dark, smoky blues and sexy funk that Hilton does so well, and it’s fun to hear what the changes are. “Dark Sky Day” is soulful and melancholy, stylistically residing somewhere between Chopin and Led Zeppelin (that ought to get some attention!). “So This Is Love” isn’t the song from Disney’s Cinderella. It’s a peaceful and contented original piece that comes from the heart. “Sunset At the Beach” paints a blissful picture one of my favorite scenarios. Serene with occasional splashes of bright musical color, it’s a wonderful ending to a great album.
"Day & Night" is an excellent choice for anyone who enjoys the softer side of jazz piano. Recommended!