Saturday, May 21, 2011

CD Review – Underground, by Lisa Hilton

On her latest album, pianist Lisa Hilton and her combo offer up an eclectic serving of jazz that never fails to satisfy.

Hilton is backed by a tight unit that includes saxophonist J.D. Allen, bassist Larry Grenadier (who occasionally records and performs with jazz guitar great Pat Metheny and will be touring with him later this year), and drummer Nasheet Waits.

Although Hilton’s name headlines the marquee, the CD never sounds like a purely solo record. It truly is a group effort, with both Hilton’s piano and Allen's saxophone sharing equal sonic space and Grenadier’s bass and Waits' drums rounding out the sound. At the same time, each musician puts his or her own unique stamp on the entire mosaic, resulting in a musical tapestry that can be appreciated both as a whole and in its individual parts.

The music is structured around Hilton’s dynamic and exuberant compositions, as well as the beautiful “B Minor Waltz” by jazz piano legend Bill Evans, to whom Hilton is often compared. The album is steeped in jazz, encompassing several forms of the genre, including freestyle, improvisational, and fusion, with a hint of ragtime and blues thrown in for good measure.

For those who like piano-led combos, jazz, or just good music in general, this set will have their ears engaged from beginning to end.

--Raj Manoharan

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