Concert Review: Lisa Hilton Trio

The Smith Center, May 17

Lisa Hilton is at her best when she is guiding us down the back roads of our own emotional geography. Sure, she can riff heavy on traditional jazz, swinging with Gregg August on bass and Jaimeo Brown on drums on Nat King Cole-inspired “Jack & Jill,” but when the trio dove into “Emergency” and “Getaway,” from her most recent album, we caught a glimpse of our familiar selves in a different light.

Most of her songs were pop-tune length but deceptively dense, arranged to pack imagery on top of commentary. “Stop & Go” and “Lost & Found,” spoke to experiences both familiar and mundane, honoring them with careful dissonance, tempo shifts and structured momentary silences.

In other works, such as “Waterfall,” “Evening Song” and “Stepping into Paradise,” Hilton was a meteorologist of the soul, playing the length of the 88 like a rain-dancing shaman, generating—with both heavy palm and light fingers—storms that soaked all the way through.

Hilton took us to Gershwin’s city in “Subway” and to our bedrooms in “Seduction,” but sidestepped sentimentality, then graciously gestured us out with the plaintive and lyrical “Slow Down” and “Huckleberry Moon.” In doing so, she proved her case, “music is our first language . . . our original social network.” ★★★★☆

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