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“It’s a bit of a family affair.” Judith Hill and her Parents are a Timeless Must-See at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

Evan Dale // February 24. 2024

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“It’s a bit of a family affair,” says Judith Hill into the mic, while fiddling her guitar pedal with black stilettos. Back onto the stage for an encore at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox in downtown Denver, the immensely talented vocalist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, with an unparalleled portfolio of accolades and experience, is introducing her band – her family – for the first time. On keys, her mother Michiko: born in Tokyo, Japan and a legend of jazz fusion and contemporary composition transcending a smattering of stylistic boundaries. On the bass, Judith’s father – and Michiko’s husband – Pee Wee: an LA-based funk and jazz bassist whose catalogue as both a session instrumentalist and a recording artist alongside Michiko has himself made a fruitful career out of music.

By both nature and nurture, saying Judith Hill has a knack for this whole music thing would be a volatile understatement. To say instead that her talented parents’ skillsets were multiplied into her own existence would be more accurate. A musician whose prowess has landed her backing and featuring vocalist opportunities with dozens of acclaimed artists spanning both stylistic and epochal borders, a Grammy award for her role as herself in 20 Feet From Stardom, a duetting streak with the late Michael Jackson, a cosign from the late Prince, a deep run into The Voice, and a successful solo career to tie it all together, Judith Hill is a tour de force whose own influence and importance within music can only really be appreciated from an insider’s perspective.

But, from a fan’s point of view, she is also one of the most uniquely exceptional live performers anywhere in music today. Two hours before she was introducing her parents and commanding the attention of everyone in the two-story venue and restaurant for the last time, she and her family quietly walked on stage sans introduction, and began rifling through elongated live renditions cut from her catalogue spanning the last decade and more. Up-tempo, rock-adjacent anthems allow her a space to put on a display of surgical command over the guitar. Downtempo, emotionally entrenched ballads grant her the latitude to delve into Soul and Blues while grabbing a seat at the piano, gracefully laying quiet over everyone in the room, except for her own unparalleled register. Drawn out solos immerse the audience in the timelessness of improvisation live and on stage. And through it all, her voice.

Judith Glory Hill fills the room with only a microphone. In truth, her voice is so powerful she could probably go without the mic altogether. Reaching glass-shattering highs and extending downwards to bellowing lows, the liquid flexibility with which she maneuvers from one song to the next, from one bluesy bridge to a soulfully piercing close, makes it challenging to find parallels anywhere else in music, not only today, but at any point. It’s no wonder her cosigners, supporters, and collaborators include some of the most influential names in music history, too.

And yet, the most key collaborators? Her parents. The joy of watching mother, father, and daughter on stage together, with the musical chops that have allowed all three to traverse the world as successful individuals in their own respective ways, is not only heartwarming, but downright funky, immersive, and defiant of the notions of both style and era. One of the most uniquely enduring performances in the world today, Judith Hill – backed by her parents – is must-see live music.

She’s wrapping up the last leg of her US tour before heading to Europe. So, check dates and get yourself to show.

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