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Lisa Hilton - Life is Beautiful (Ruby Slippers Productions)

28 March 2022

No moss gathered on this rolling stone – Californian pianist/composer Lisa Hilton has amassed a catalog of two dozen albums since 1998, all released on her own Ruby Slippers Productions label. Her twenty-fifth record Life is Beautiful continues down the path on which she’s most comfortable: melodic hard bop and third stream compositions performed masterfully with her stalwart rhythm section of Luques Curtis on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Whether the trio is working with a samba rhythm (“Santa Monica Samba,” natch), reconfiguring a tango (“More Than Another Day”), leaning into classical physical and compositional technique (“Unforgotten Moments, Half Forgotten Dreams”), or grooving with the blues (“Ernie’s Blues,” composed by Ernie Wilkins and the only non-original here), the band locks in on a gentle swing and a tuneful accessibility. Despite the world-class rhythm section, Hilton really hits her peak on “Seduction,” a melodic solo tune that, amazingly, she started writing while still a teenager. No grand concept on Life is Beautiful, no pushing of any envelopes – just good tunes played well. Effortlessly enjoyable.