Lisa Hilton often settles in at her piano and riffs on everyone from Miles Davis and Horace Silver to The Black Keys and Green Day, until she can find peace within the notes, letting them fill the room and fall where they languish in this glow of calm with a touch of brooding blues. Then this past year, the world changed a bit and finding that calm seemed a little more elusive.
“Everything is charged with politics, a large portion of our world seems to be emigrating, and climate catastrophe seems constant,” Hilton says in a news release. “There’s been so much turmoil lately; we can’t find a sense of peace surfing the Internet or social networks — we need really positive sources to balance out this time of disruption in our lives.”
For her 20th album – Hilton has recorded an album a year since 1997- she wanted to provide uplift and relief, where listeners can be energized and feel rejuvenated. This became the theme for her latest release, the aptly titled Escapism. The album (available on December 1 on Ruby Slippers Productions) includes the Alan Lerner and Burton Lane standard, “On a Clear Day” and nine Hilton originals ranging from the high-voltage opener, “Hot Summer Samba” to the introspective and ethereal “Mojave Moon.” Each composition seems to generate, by albums end, a mental release or escape all its own.
“Artists have an important role in our culture and community – it is through art and music that our souls and spirits can be energized, balanced and entertained – we all need to “escape” from our challenges,” Hilton says. “I want our music to be a positive force whether you’re listening on the subway, while at work or lounging on a tropical island. Our music embraces the good experiences in our world.”
After working solo on last year’s Day & Night release, Hilton brought back saxophonist JD Allen, trumpet and flugelhornist Terell Stafford, bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston into Avatar Studios for one of the last sessions at that revered and storied studio before it became property of Berklee College of Music on September 1.
“It was definitely nostalgic being at Avatar the last few days before it changed ownership since no one really knows what will happen to it – we hope good things,” she says. “I have recorded ten albums there and I love the rooms, they have a special sound and ambiance. I think the entire band knew this recording was a time to savor the sense of the place – there were excellent solos going on, and we had a great sound captured by our engineer, a true sound icon, James Farber. What tremendous musicians and all leaders in their own right – I feel so fortunate to continue to work again and again with them.”
Escapism is an audiophile’s delight from the team of top engineers that Hilton has worked with for years; besides recording engineer Farber, it was mixed by 23-time Grammy® Award-winning engineer Al Schmitt at the legendary Capitol Studios in Hollywood and mastered by multi-Grammy® Award-winners Gavin Lurssen and Reuben Cohen.