Jazz interview with jazz pianist, composer Lisa Hilton. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Lisa Hilton: – I have always loved music, and there was a lot of music around our home – EVERYONE (except my dad) played 1 or 2 instruments. I had 3 sisters and a grandfather who played violin and my mother played piano. I grew up in a small town near the California coast. My father was a university professor in biology and my mother was a book keeper.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the your musical instrument? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the your musical instrument?
LH: – I think musicians, or any artists, are driven purely by an internal need to create. It is not teachers that can create that. I was not allowed to take lessons until I was 8 so I taught myself to “read” music with a little colored keyboard guide that would spell out the notes with colors. I got bored with that and started trying to write my own songs around 6 or 7 years old – very simple ones though!
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
LH: – For while I would try and play like someone else that I admired, but I never could. I think an artists’ “sound” comes from their life experiences and preferences. My sound was always there, but it is more developed now that I play more.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
LH: – I spend a lot of time composing, but when I’m practicing, I play in a very focused way. I love to play, so practice is fun for me. I do try and sight read as much as I can – the great pieces of music that are very difficult – that’s fun for me too! Sight reading forces you to grow and explore new music too.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
LH: – I always like to explore new harmonic ideas. Many harmonies are associated with past eras, so I like to try to use things in new ways to create washes of sound like a water color painting.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2017: <Escapism>, how it was formed.
LH: – In 2016 my album Day & Night was about committing to looking for what is good and right and freely given in the world, but in 2017 it seemed like things in our world seemed even more difficult! I feel that we need to make more than a commitment – we need to transcend or find a way to emotionally ‘escape’ from the everyday difficulties. We can do this by seeking out the beauty around us – there is as much beauty and positive things as there is discord and difficulties. ESCAPISM helps the listener to feel these positive experiences. What I love is how upbeat the music and energy is.
JBN.S: – And what you are working on today?
LH: – I am touring the new music in the United States – starting at Carnegie Hall in NYC.
JBN.S: – This year your fans like we can wait for a new album?
LH: – I hope so! I normally produce a new album every year.
JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you this 2017 year?
LH: – I won’t comment on today’s albums, because I don’t want to play favorites with my bandmates or friends!
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
LH: – There are so many, but I will say my favorite place to play is Carnegie Hall in NYC – the space has perfect acoustics and an amazing Steinway D piano – just what a pianist wants! I am a big fan of my band, so I really enjoy hearing them play with such great sound and fidelity. My favorite recording studio is Avatar in NYC – now called The Power Station again. I have also worked in Chick Corel’s old Mad Hatter Studio – that was a crazy place! I also like to work at Capitol Studios where so many famous recordings were made – like Frank Sinatra.
JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?
LH: – I think music or art is not really a choice that someone makes – it is something that they feel compelled to do, and that is what guides their life. Everyone’s path is completely different based on their interests and abilities.
JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?
LH: – Good question. There are a lot of changes that have been going on that have increased income sources, so that is good. As a composer, my situation is different as I create my own music – I don’t play other peoples music much so I have more variety of ways to create my career.
JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?
LH: – I feel really thankful that so many really brilliant and talented musicians have wanted to work with me – again and again. I am from a small town, and started with almost no experience and limited schooling. It seems a miracle that I have worked with the greatest jazz musicians in the world. I feel very lucky.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
LH: – Most of my audience is younger. I think that you need to combine new and old ideas – music is less about genre these days – just look at Taylor Swift! I do not think it’s right to keep playing the same music over and over – imagine painting the same painting for 60+ years! My music is influenced by the past, but also by today.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
LH: – I think that most people in jazz are very spiritual by nature.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
LH: – I think that you have to trust that things will work out. I walk by faith….
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
LH: – That women in jazz, women in classical music, and women as composers, bandleaders and producers would be given a fair deal. Things are better in areas like pop, but I think Cardi B is the first female rapper- it’s about time!
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
LH: – I think I am writing 3 books on music very soon!
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
LH: – Jazz and blues are examples of America’s folk music, (there are others). I have always felt a lot of similarities with jazz and eastern European folk music of the 20th century with the syncopated rhythms.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
LH: – I listen to EVERYTHING except country and opera (sorry!)
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
LH: – Miles Davis, 1959, Kinda Blue recording sessions.
JBN.S: – So far, I ask, please your question to me …
LH: – You have a wonderful website! It is great that you are sharing your passion for jazz in our world! Keep it up and thank you for reaching out to me. Where are you located?
JBN.S: – Editorial offices in Boston – MA – USA, Prague – Czech and in Yerevan – Armenia, the website is read all over the world. It has 28,083 followers and it is every day visited by more than 55,000 readers by visitor counter Google Analitics!!!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan