„She is an exciting and unique talent and I admire her greatly“ Sting
Pop, jazz, Canada. To see how well these three go together, is not just a matter of looking back into the past. Canadian artists of our time such as Michael Bublé and Diana Krall have followed in the footsteps of legends such as Joni Mitchell. Whereas these genres of music have sometimes been seen as at loggerheads, in the land of the maple leaf they get along together just fine.
“I have been in search of my artistic voice ever since my first album,” the classically trained pianist explains. “I have experimented with so many genres. Everything felt right to me, but it never really encompassed the totality of who I am. LAILA BIALI unites all the facets of me as an artist: pianist, singer. arranger, composer, a devotee of jazz and of other genres. With this album I feel I have truly arrived.”
Biali gained her first experience on the big stage as a backing vocalist for Sting, which was also where she met several members of her band. She met her drummer - and future husband - Ben Wittman, however, on tour with Paula Cole. “Ben plays a unique mix of percussion and drums, she says. “His grooves are deep and rootsy - a perfect complement to the faster, funky grooves of Larnell Lewis." Like trumpeter Mike "Maz" Maher, Lewis is a member of the mega-successful fusion band Snarky Puppy, for whom nothing is musically off-limits.
These three, together with top-flight people such as Lisa Fischer, long-time singer on Rolling-Stones tours, and multi-award-winning jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, form a powerful backing band for Laila Biali's joyously colourful ACT debut. Sam Yahel, who was organist in the seminal Joshua Redman Elastic Band, completes the illustrious circle of guests on the album.
The spirited “Got To Love” is the entry point into the album, with its funky handclaps and gutsy organ riffs, an ecstatic mood that Biali then tempers with the Latininflected "We Go". An intense cover version of Coldplay's "Yellow" is the first of three songs by others which the singer has added into the mix with her own compositions: "I have always enjoyed arranging songs," says Biali, who now lives with her family in Toronto. “At concerts we have often gone with the flow of what audiences want. Coldplay, Randy Newman and David Bowie were always our favourites.” Newman's "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" shows Biali's sensitive, introverted side. Alone at the piano she creates a real tingle factor, while "Let's Dance" is a remarkable, soulful Bowie cover.
The cheerful, ear-wormish song “Wind” is based on a poem written by the singer decades ago. "I struggled with the lyrics for a long time, they never seemed to fit properly. I even asked Sting to help me! In the end it was some verses by the Persian mystic poet Rumi that enabled me to complete it."
Laila Biali has her own concept of jazz, in which soul, indie-rock, blues and pop all have their place. The album LAILA BIALI is wonderfully catchy, but can’t be pigeonholed into any of the standard mainstream radio formats. There is sophistication, but it eschews the seriousness of high culture. This ACT debut album sparkles with exuberant playfulness and beautifully crafted variety. And the singer´s own verdict: “This album feels like a homecoming.”
1 Got To Love ( Laila Biali) 03:14
2 We Go ( Laila Biali) 05:17
3 Satellite ( Laila Biali) 05:06
4 Yellow ( Chris Martin / Jonny Buckland / Guy Berryman / Will Champion & Andre Benz) 04:43
5 Refugee ( Laila Biali) 05:26
6 Dolores Angel ( Laila Biali) 04:36
7 Queen of Hearts ( Laila Biali) 04:54
8 Serenbe ( Laila Biali) 04:22
9 Code Breaking ( Laila Biali) 04:46
10 I Think It´s Going To Rain Today ( Randy Newman) 03:38
11 Wind (Rumi Poem) ( Laila Biali) 05:22
12 Let´s Dance ( David Bowie)
George Koller / bass
Larnell Lewis / drums (01, 02, 04, 08, 09, 11, 12)
Ben Wittman / drums (03, 05, 06, 07), percussion
Ambrose Akinmusire / trumpet (03, 05)
Mike “Maz” Maher / trumpet (02, 08, 09, 11)
Sam Yahel / organ (01, 02, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 12)
Glenn Patscha / organ (solo on 02), keys (12)
Lisa Fischer / vocals (01, 02, 05, 06, 07, 08)
Jo Lawry / vocals (all tracks except 09)
Carlos Ricketts / vocals (01, 02, 06, 07)
All songs written and arranged by Laila Biali, except: Yellow by Coldplay: Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman, Will Champion & Andre Benz I Think It’s Going To Rain Today by Randy Newman Let’s Dance by David Bowie
Produced by Ben Wittman & Laila Biali
Recorded at Revolution Recording (Toronto),
Wittman Productions (Toronto), Mission Sound (Brooklyn),
Vibramonk Studios (Brooklyn), Fantasy Studios (San Francisco)
& Pod Noise Studio (New York City), March - October, 2016
Mixed by Tim Abraham
Mastered by João Carvalho
Photography by Rockie Nolan