REVIEWS OF NEW RELEASE
SECOND STORY BREEZE
by Michael G. Nastos
At first blush, Cynthia Hilts is one of many first floor jazz singers, which should be good enough for most. But upon further examination, and a second or third listening, multiple layers of her personality are revealed, especially considering her excellent piano playing and compositional prowess. Teamed with the extraordinary rhythm team of bassist Ron McClure and drummer Jeff Williams, Hilts and her trio lift this music higher and higher as the program moves along. She's blessed with a voice that is more artistic à la Patricia Barber than singsongy, while her piano musings share stylistic phrasings with Bill Evans, her avowed influence Richie Beirach, and to a certain extent Chick Corea or Keith Jarrett. The more you listen to her deeply skilled and soulful keyboard patterns, the more they can be appreciated. Only three standards are here, including a ten-and-a half-minute "Love for Sale" with its nonchalant emotion and craggy arrangement plus a light swing on the second chorus, the interpolated "My Favorite Things" where Hilts sings behind the beat and space is as important as the notes, and the fun filled "Three Blind Mice," a scurrying, bouncy, playful instrumental. "Bunny" is the standout instrumental original -- please listen to it over and over to fully appreciate her inventiveness within a frame work -- as Hilts trail hops in Corea's style while putting her own sound out there. A slinky tune, "Living It Up" has Hilts vocally listing her truly favorite things as the simple things. Her enunciation is as understated as the crystal blue modal colors of her piano during "The Fading Blue," where she is surrounded by shades of ancient lavender and lilac. Hilts bookends the album with waltzing wispy wordless vocals that bring out her siren side, as the title track exudes happy serenity -- a little Sheila Jordan, a little Jay Clayton. "Waiting" concludes the date as she perfectly exudes a tone of impatience and anticipation, singing dum-dum-dum time wasting phrases as the inexorable minutes slide by. McClure is always top-notch, and gets sufficient solo space, while Williams is reliable as any drummer in modern jazz. Whether riffing on made up improvisations or calling out to the gods for affirmation, Cynthia Hilts is conjuring unique music in her mind, and executing it in enjoyable ways that marks her an original set apart from many other cookie cutter musicians. If Second Story Breeze is any indication, she's quickly heading to the penthouse, and thus this recording comes highly recommended.
Cynthia Hilts is a multifaceted, multitalented artist. She is a phenomenally gifted pianist who has the same control over the keyboard and the range of dynamics and finesse of touch as a classically trained pianist. Her involvement in the technical aspects of making music in the jazz idiom don't stop there. This lady can write some terrific, refreshingly new songs and then deliver not only the piano portion but also the lyrics with her dusky, sexy voice. Listening to Cynthia Hilts (in collaboration with her trio that includes Ron McClure on bass and Jeff Williams on drums) is about as pure as jazz gets - start with a phrase/tune/statement and then embellishing it until the full range of emotions are explored.
The CD opens with a wonderful tune 'Second Story Breeze' which is primarily a piano solo with accompaniment from the trio and from Hilts's own wordless vocal instrumental enhancement. Hilts's voice, as soulful as it is, is so well integrated with the total effect that it seem her singing comes from her flexible fingers more than her vocal chords! She can take off on a casually involving piano solo 'Nun, Miffdemeanor-Like' and make it feel endlessly creative. Humor creeps in along with extended solos from the other members of her trio in 'Living It Up' and 'My Favorite Things'. Hilts traverses her own works with those standards that sound like we've never heard them.
For this listener the highlight of this consistently excellent album is 'Love for Sale' - a rendition that literally squeezes out every drop of meaning from the intent of the song. Here Hilts shows us just how well she can sing and turn words into meaning. It is a delight.
For those who appreciate jazz performed by gifted musicians CYNTHIA HILTS'S "SECOND STORY BREEZE" will take you places you have never been and provide some of the most satisfying sounds and communi-cation currently out there!
GRADY HARP - AMAZON.COM
As the screen flashes out letters in their obedient dance, I am struck by the musical magic in the tune "Nun, Miffdemeaner-Like" Hilts is true to the bebop tradition in her solo, mixing a bit of Bud Powell with some asides to Mr. Monk on occasion. Some interesting 8 bar exchanges plus an extended bass solo add to this tunes listenability.
"Three Blind Mice" This clever and jaunty exploration is as sassy as it gets. Cynthia Hilts parlays this song into an 'insightful' trip down a new musical highway.
Hilts and company have a musical ensemble that will please the ear of the most discerning listener. Cynthia Hilts, as mentioned, is true to the bebop tradition with nods to the masters, yet remains uniquely
individualistic in style and substance.
JOHN GILBERT - EJAZZNEWS.COM
Cynthia Hilts is a jazz vocalist/musician who has all the qualities to make it happen, and on Second Story Breeze (Blond Coyote) she plays the piano in a fashion that makes the listener want to hear all of her work and check out a few shows.
She plays with the same kind of beauty that Herbie Hancock and Dave Brubeck have in their playing, where it's not just hammering for the sake of hammering, there's a lot of thought in each and every move she makes, which include the amount of space between each chord and phrase, it's very deliberate. You can hear this in material like the engaging title track, "Bunny", and" The Fading Blue", or in the crafty "Nun, Miffdemeanor-Like" where she is playful and shows that she has an incredible sense of humor in her style too.
JOHN BOOK - THERUNOFFGROOVE.BLOGSPOT
Presenting her second album since the 2000 release of Stars Down To The Ground (MAR Records), New York-based pianist/vocalist and composer Cynthia Hilts offers a repertoire of mostly original music of contemporary light jazz. Recorded with bassist Ron McClure and drummer Jeff Williams, this piano trio sticks to a more traditional approach in the interpretation of classic standards such as Rodgers and Hammerstein's My Favorite Things, a ten-minute read of Cole Porter's Love For Sale and the familiar Three Blind Mice.
Hilts actually begins the album with a non-traditional groove delivering wordless vocals on the opening title track as she demonstrates her ample chops on the piano while McClure secures a soft bass voice to the pianist's wordless scatting. Although the majority of the music is down tempo, the tune Living It Up provides one of the livelier tracks showcasing Hilts on a fine vocal performance. While the piece Bunny, a non-vocal number, is perhaps the best pure jazz track here featuring Hilts in a simply marvelous performance on the keys.
There are a total of ten tunes on this disc and each one is distinctly different offering a clear testament to the artist's creative talents as a composer. Whether on vocals or laying down a sophisticated piano line, Cynthia Hilts attempts to separate herself from the typical piano trio recordings that clutter the jazz music genre these days and I think Second Story Breeze does that quite well.
EDWARD BLANCO - EJAZZREVIEW.VOM
© 2009 Cynthia Hilts
FROM NEW YORK TO FRANCE
MONTANA TO AFRICA
THEY'VE LOVED CYNTHIA'S MUSIC
WHAT THEY SAID :
"...she distilled a jazz dream for us. Alone at the piano, she played with a sublime grace that is too rarely found these days..."
"Boulders lie scattered, seemingly random and yet placed just so - like metamorphic chords upon the piano."
JAZZ FOR PEACE BENEFIT
REVIEWS of Cynthia's CD
"STARS DOWN TO THE GROUND"
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amusement - Cynthia Hilts &
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