The jazz community was more active this year than in recent memory, or so it seems. That is because of the number of new albums that Phil’s Picks received this year from various jazz labels and acts. In all, more than 30 jazz albums in 2022. That is a much larger number of albums than ever received in the jazz category by Phil’s Picks. The jazz covered this year ranged from Afro-Latin to big band to more intimate music, meaning there was quite a bit for jazz fans to take in this year, too.
As with each other Phil’s Picks list, this list features the year’s top 10 new albums in the given category and five honorable mention titles, for a total of 15 records. This list was anything but easy to assemble considering just how many albums were received this year. No disrespect is meant to any act featured in this list, as each has its own positives.
Without any further ado here is Phil’s Picks 2022 Top 10 New Jazz Albums.
PHIL’S PICKS 2022 TOP 10 NEW JAZZ ALBUMS
Danilo Perez – Crisalida
Taurey Butler – One Of The Others
Tom Collier – The Color of Wood
Yellowjackets – Parallel Motion
Doug MacDonald and L.A. All-Star Octet – Overtones
Doug MacDonald – I’ll See You In My Dreams
Amos Gillespie – Unstructured Time
Chris Torkewitz – NY Ensembles
Matt Hall – I Hope To My Never
Nicholas Payton – The Couch Sessions
Bobby Watson – Back Home In Kansas City
San Nelson’s New London Big Band – Social Hour
Lisa Hilton – Life Is Beautiful
Paxton/Spengler Septet – Ugqozi
Tony Monaco – Four Brothers
That’s it for this list but as the final hours of the day tick away there is still so much left to do. There is still World Music to focus on and the year’s top new indie albums and albums overall, plus all of the year’s top new movie and TV content. Pray for me and stay tuned!
Jazz pianist/composer Lisa Hilton returned Friday with her latest album, Life Is Beautiful. The album’s release came less than a year after the release of her then latest album, Transparent Sky, which was released in September. The 11-song album is a thoroughly enjoyable follow-up to that record, too, as the varied arrangements show. One of the most notable of the album’s entries is ‘Unforgotten Moments, Half Forgotten Dreams,’ which serves as part of the album’s midpoint. It will be discussed shortly. ‘More Than Another Day,’ the album’s penultimate entry, is another notable addition to the album. It will be discussed a little later. ‘Retro Road Trip,’ which comes early in the album’s run, is yet another notable way in which the album shows its strength. It will be examined later, too. Each song noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Life Is Beautiful. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes the record a beautiful addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.
Life Is Beautiful, the latest studio recording from Lisa Hilton, is a presentation that her established audiences and jazz fans alike will enjoy. That is proven from the album’s opening to its end. One of the strongest examples of what makes the album so enjoyable is ‘Unforgotten Moments, Half Forgotten Dreams.’ Hilton wrote of this song in the album’s liner notes that it “seems to express the last two years – moments never before experienced that will not be forgotten, sandwiched in our psyche with previous dreams from the “olden days” of 2019.” Those moments were and have been anything but positive. They have been downright depressing and tumultuous. Keeping that in mind, the light, bluesy approach that Hilton and her fellow musicians take here — that light touch on the piano that gradually builds in the “verses” alongside the steady time keeping — really does so well to echo the mood that so many people worldwide have felt over the past couple of years. The gradual decline that the song takes does just as well to echo how people have felt because it really has seemed like that light at the end of the tunnel just won’t appear. To that end, this bluesy tune makes for its own musical therapy and standout moment from the album. It is just one of the songs that shows what this album has to offer, too. ‘More Than Another Day,’ which comes late in the album, is another notable addition to the album.
‘More Than Another Day’ is completely driven by Hilton’s work on the keys. The composition is a smooth, flowing work that clearly echoes the influences of Miles Davis and Bill Evans that Hilton notes played into the song’s creation. Clocking in at just under six minutes (five minutes 54 seconds to be exact), there is the most subtle bluesy touch to Hilton’s performance here. The way the chords flow and compliment the drum fills and solid time keeping makes for so much enjoyment in the overall subtle approach here. It is just one more enjoyable way in which Life Is Beautiful shows its strength. ‘Retro Road Trip’ is one more way in which the album shows how much it has to offer.
Hilton wrote of ‘Retro Road Trip’ in the album’s liner notes, that song’s syncopated ,percussive approach came from her own classical training. The interesting thing is that said approach really likens itself to work from the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s timeless hit ‘Take 5.’ While clearly different, the two songs’ stylistic approaches and overall sounds are so similar. Hilton and company’s song still boasts its own identity even with the comparison, and that really makes this song all the more enjoyable. When this song, in all of its ensured engagement and entertainment, is considered with the other arrangements examined here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes the album overall its own “beautiful” new offering from Hilton and company.
Lisa Hilton’s latest album, Life Is Beautiful, is a work that her established audiences and jazz fans alike will agree is a welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums. That is proven from start to finish in each of its 11 total songs. The songs examined here each do well to support the noted statements. The songs’ backgrounds and variety in their sounds and styles makes that clear. When the songs examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Life Is Beautiful a “beautiful” new offering from Hilton and her fellow musicians.
Life Is Beautiful is available through her own label, Lisa Hilton Music. More information on the album is available along with all of Lisa Hilton’s latest news at:
Jazz pianist/composer Lisa Hilton has been making music for almost 25 years. In that time, Hilton has released approximately 25 albums, with no more than one year between each record’s release since the release of her 1997 debut, Seduction. To say that 25 albums in less in 25 years is a lot of music is an understatement, but that is what Hilton has done. Today, Hilton is adding even more to her expansive catalog with the release of her 26th album, Transparent Sky. Released through her longtime label, Ruby Slippers Productions, the 10-song record is enjoyable, but imperfect. The most notable of the album’s aspects comes in the form of its musical arrangements. They will be discussed shortly. While the record’s musical arrangements does plenty to make the record successful, the lack of any background on the songs’ creation detracts from the presentation’s appeal at least to a point. It will be discussed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements. It is another positive worth examining, and it will be examined, too. Each item noted is important in its own way to this record’s presentation. All things considered, they make the record a mostly successful presentation overall.
Lisa Hilton’s new album, Transparent Sky is a record that proves to be a mostly positive presentation. Its success comes in large part through its musical arrangements. The arrangements in question are divers throughout the album’s 38-minute run time, offering audiences something different in each composition. One of the most notable of the featured works comes early in the record’s run in the form of ‘Living in Limbo.’ This multi-rhythmic composition is centered around Hilton’s staccato style performance on the piano here. Drummer Rudy Royston keeps up solidly with Hilton here, adding ghost notes and accents in all of the right places as she switches back and forth between those shorter notes and more melodic passages.
By direct comparison, the far more subdued, gentle, flowing arrangement featured in ‘Extraordinary, Everyday Things’ is just as engaging even being so relaxed. What is really interesting here is the harmony established in the two-part piano line here. The secondary line that opens the song and continues at points throughout will sound quite familiar to audiences. It is lifted from a more well-known composition on which this critic cannot place a finger. Its consistency against the primary melody though, makes for such an interesting presentation, even as the song evolves into a slight bluesy feel. The whole is in such contrast to the arrangement featured in ‘Living in Limbo,’ but in such a wonderful, welcome fashion. It is just another example of why the musical arrangements featured in this album are so important to its presentation. ‘Chromatic Chronicles’ is yet another example of why the record’s musical arrangements are so important to its presentation.
The musical arrangement featured in ‘Chromatic Chronicles’ is another composition that really goes in different ways. The song’s title comes obviously through the chromatic steps that Hilton takes to form the song’s foundation. The redundancy of that approach against the song’s main melody and Royston’s steady time keeping to create a unique approach in itself here. The occasional break from that redundancy keeps the song interesting through its three minute-plus run time. The juxtaposition of the primary melody to the changes makes for so much interest in itself because it is so much unlike the other songs examined here and the rest of the album’s songs. Taking all of the featured arrangements into mind together, no doubt is left as to their diversity and importance. For all that they do to make this record appealing, the lack of any background on how the song’s came to be detracts from the album’s appeal to a point.
Looking through the packaging for Hilton’s new album, there is no information at all about the songs’ creation. Yes, there is some information in the liner notes about when and where the album was crafted. In regards to the songs though, there is nothing. That is disappointing because of how impressive each arrangement is in itself. Case in point is the arrangement featured, again, in ‘Life in Limbo.’ The song really does well to translate a sense of confusion, uncertainty, etc. However, having just the song’s title to reference, misinterpretation is very easy here. Was the song the result of the sense of confusion and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic? Was it inspired by some other life event that Hilton experienced? It just would have been nice to know so as to have a better, deeper understanding of the song.
Staying on that topic, the album’s opener, ‘Santa Monica Samba’ is a nice, light danceable arrangement that is…well…centered around a dance, the samba. So to that end, listeners are left to assume here that even with the arrangement exhibiting clear Latin influence, the bigger story is missing, again. Was this song inspired by Hilton dancing with someone along the Santa Barbara, CA coast? Was it something else? Again, the song in itself is so enjoyable, but having at least a little background would have helped increase the immersion into the song.
As if this is not enough proof, ‘Fall Upon A Miracle’ is another example of that need of the need for that background information. Considering the arrangement’s blend of blues and Latin leanings, the whole is an interesting presentation in its own right. The pairing gives the arrangement a certain unique swing of sorts. It would certainly have been nice to know how this arrangement came about, too, considering that. Taking this song and the others noted here into consideration along with everything else here, there is no doubt that the lack of any background information detracts from the album’s presentation at least to a point. That lack is not enough to doom the album by any means, but it certainly would have enhanced the listening experience.
Keeping in mind that the lack of background information is not enough to fail the album, there is at least one more positive to this presentation to note. That item is the record’s sequencing. It is important to note because it keeps the record moving fluidly from beginning to end. The rises and falls in the album’s energy are balanced expertly throughout. Case in point, the record opens on a high note and continues in such fashion, but then pulls back soon thereafter in ‘Nightingales & Fairy Tales.’ From there, the record’s energy rises just enough again in ‘Living in Limbo.’ Hilton and company’s cover of Billie Holliday’s ‘God Bless The Child’ pulls things back again, in turn keeping things interesting for listeners. From there on through the record’s second half sees its energy rise and fall just enough time and again, continuing to keep listeners engaged and entertained. The impact of that clearly thought out sequencing does just as much to make the album successful as its arrangements themselves. Even with the shortfall that is the lack of any background on the songs, those two elements alone make the album worth hearing.
Lisa Hilton’s new album, Transparent Sky is a mostly positive new offering from the veteran jazz pianist/composer. Its success is rooted primarily in its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements in question are diverse from one to the next, offering audiences much to appreciate just in that aspect. As much as the album’s musical content has to offer audiences, the lack of information on the songs notably detracts from the album’s appeal. It is not enough of an issue to make the album a failure, but it certainly would have enhanced the listening experience. To that end, the sequencing is not next logical item to examine. The sequencing takes into full account, the varied energies in each arrangement. That attention to detail ensures that the sequencing works with the arrangements to do just enough to make this record worth hearing. Keeping all of this in mind, Transparent Sky proves to be a mostly successful new offering from Lisa Hilton.
Transparent Sky is available now through Ruby Slippers Productions. More information on the album is available along with all of Lisa Hilton’s latest news at:
Jazz and blues fans have had a lot to like this year. That is because this year has produced so much enjoyable and memorable music from the two genres, which are so closely aligned. From Yellowjackets’ new album Jackets XL to Joe Bonamassa’s new album Royal Tea to he Rev. Shawn Amos’ latest album Blue Sky and more, this year has seen so much great music released. That being said, with the year winding down, critics are already releasing their lists of the year’s top new albums in these categories. This critic is joining those ranks with a list of the best of the year’s new jazz and blues albums.
As with each list released by Phil’s Picks, this list features the Top 10 new albums from the two genres and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 albums. Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Jazz and Blues Albums.
PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW JAZ & BLUES ALBUMS
Yellowjackets – Jackets XL
Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea
Lisa Hilton – More Than Another Day
The Rev. Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood – Blue Sky
Analog Players Society – Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film
Melody Gardot – Sunset In Blue
Dion – Blues With Friends
Ronie Earl & The Broadcasters – Rise Up
Shadow & The Thrill – Sugarbowl
Diana Krall – This Dream Of You
Sugar Ray & The Bluetones – Too Far From The Bar
Carol Welsman – Dance With Me
The Rough Guide to the Roots of Country Blues
The Roots of Blues
The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues
Next up from Phil’s Picks is the Top 10 New World Music Albums from 2020. Stay tuned for that.