Jodi Proznick Quartetjodiproznick.com
Vancouver bassist and music educator Jodi Proznick is best known as a superbly swinging accompanist with multiple National Jazz Awards and two JUNO nominations to her credit. One of those nominations was for “Sun Songs” (Cellar Live label), a highly personal 2017 album that demonstrates her immense composing, songwriting and producing abilities. The genesis for the project occurred a decade earlier when Jodi experienced two opposing life events: the birth of her son and a mother whose health was deteriorating with early-onset dementia (Jodi’s mom died in January 2019).
“It’s really about the two of them,” Proznick explained to Clare Hennig of CBC News. “Just the polarity of that and the pulling and ripping apart of my heart with the incredible joy of watching my son emerge while my mother was in the fall of her life…I thought to myself, ‘If I were to pass away tomorrow, what would I want my son to know?’”
“Sun Songs” draws on the prodigious talents of Proznick and the rest of her core West Coast band: husband Tilden Webb (piano), brother-in-law Jesse Cahill (drums) and lifelong friend Steve Kaldestad (tenor saxophone), as well as guest performer and family friend Laila Biali, whose luminous vocals lift the pieces to unparalleled heights. Jodi’s greatest creative breakthrough on this recording came with the recognition that even when anxiety and grief are at their deepest, “there is grace all the time and there is beauty all the time available to us. We just have to stop and pay attention to it.” Inside each Sun Song a radiant beauty echoes and there’s a gateway to the many ways we can light up the sky.
One-half of Jodi Proznick’s May 23rd performance will feature “Sun Songs” while the rest of the evening will spotlight a variety of material from Jodi & Laila’s other projects. The lineup for her London ensemble is Jodi (bass), Kelly Jefferson (tenor sax), Dave Laing (drums), Dave Restivo (piano) and Laila (vocals). Half of the proceeds from the sale of Jodi’s CDs at this TD Sunfest concert will be donated to the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
Laila Biali would like to reintroduce herself.
The raven-haired musician has won awards (SOCAN Composer of the Year and Keyboardist of the Year at Canada’s National Jazz Awards) and played the world’s most prestigious venues (North Sea Jazz Festival, Tokyo’s Cotton Club, Carnegie Hall). She’s toured with GRAMMY award winners (Chris Botti, Paula Cole, Suzanne Vega) and recorded with an international icon (Sting). In short: She’s established herself as one of Canadian jazz’s brightest young stars. And now, almost two decades into a successful career, she’s ready for a change.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Laila says of her upcoming self-titled album. “I’ve been playing music professionally for years but this album feels, in a way, like a new beginning.”
Led by the funky single, “Got to Love,” LAILA BIALI is the culmination of everything the acclaimed singer-songwriter has achieved thus far. “Writing this album, I felt like a kid in a candy store, wanting to try everything,” Laila explains. “It took some time for me to find my voice as a songwriter, and I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself into any one particular genre.”
The end result is an eclectic-but-focused album that Laila describes as “fully representative.” “There are elements of improvisation, so the jazz is there,” she says. “There’s also an edgier songwriting persona that I think has always been there but took some time to hone in on.”
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.
Balancing the competing impulses was a challenge, but the final outcome was worth it. “I’m more excited about this record than any other project of mine to date,” Laila declares. Fans should be too.