Laila Biali is an award-winning Canadian pianist & vocalist – and now weekly radio host (“Saturday Night Jazz,” 8 p.m. to midnight on CBC Radio 2) – who continues to garner global recognition for her performances at prestigious venues like the North Sea Jazz Festival (The Netherlands), Tokyo’s Cotton Club, and New York’s Carnegie Hall. Over the past couple of years, she has toured with Grammy winners Chris Botti, Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega. Also, she has recorded with and supported music icon Sting, who raved, “Laila is an exciting and unique talent and I admire her greatly.”
But for all her artistic brilliance and string of critical accolades, it’s Laila’s affinity for seeking inspiration in human relationships that most defines this highly admired artist. These special qualities were recognized by Toronto pianist Ron Davis, who described Laila as “a spiritually deep and beautiful soul,” adding “and this shows in her music.”
A TD Sunfest standout over many years, Laila returns to London on March 1st to celebrate the release of her new follow-up album of genre-bending originals and covers (songs by David Bowie, Coldplay and Randy Newman). Debuting at #1 on iTunes Jazz Canada, and #7 on iTunes Jazz USA, this eponymous recording further expands upon Laila’s unique “ability to meld traditional jazz with contemporary pop so effortlessly that neither style seems out of place on the same record” (Spinner Magazine).
Catchy, sophisticated, and unlike anything currently on the radio, it’s pop music, but not the kind that can be neatly tagged by an algorithm. Melodies take thrilling left turns and pre-choruses give way to instrumental interludes. One minute, Biali is soaring over a bluesy storm of handclaps and hard-charging keyboard riffs (“Got to Love”); the next, she is pouring out her soul on an impassioned, slow-burning plea for empathy (“Refugee”). It’s pop music, but the experimental, distinctly human variety popularized by Regina Spektor, Rachael Yamagata and Sara Bareilles. And it’s more improvisatory and spontaneous than House of Many Rooms. “We’ve brought the jazz back in, in a more meaningful way,” Laila says.