How did I come across Laila Biali? Call it serendipity. Towards the latter end of 2017 I received an email from Laila’s PR agency; this seems some time ago. However, it was to interview an artist, who at the time I was unfamiliar with. Like other artists, I was keen to explore what made her tick.
This self-titled release is Laila's sixth studio album. Past reviews have been positive and this album is no exception. In particular her debut album Introducing the Laila Biali Trio, in the words of music journalist Stanley Fefferman; "Here, what shall I choose? Laila as composer? Arranger? Pianist? Vocalist? How about this: in every one of those areas, she goes all out, and then some."
Succinctly summarised and true to this day.
This very talented songsmith focuses her energy, heart and passion into this compelling project. Not only does she demonstrate remarkable writing prose and vision, but she also skilfully embraces pop classics, lucidly braiding them into the contemporary jazz genre. Now with the backing of a major record label the potential listening audience has been broadened exponentially.
As I pondered over the delights this album has to offer, I asked myself, 'if there is something on this album for everybody, what has anybody got to lose?' Surely this album is a win-win! The album is gracefully balanced with cover titles to support Laila's own creations. These include Coldplay's Yellow, I Think It's Going to Rain Today by Randy Newman and Let’s Dance by David Bowie. Wind is inspired by the Islamic poet Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Balkhi, also known as Rumi (circa 1200).
In my earlier interview here Laila states profoundly, "I think the album reflects the transitions and places and explores what it means to have a home; Because in some ways, the more transitions we experience in our lives, especially with our physical home, the more the music becomes a home. The album became the anchoring constant piece against all the other transitions." This virtuous statement is full of sentiment, not often exemplified in the competitive, aggressive world of corporate music. I think we have a keeper.
Laila’s professional highlights include working with none other than Sting on A Winter's Night - Live from Durham Cathedral. I also learnt reading historical reviews, around that period, established vocalist and songwriter Lisa Fischer is credited with creating that opportunity and is featured on this album. Laila pays-it-forward.
Laila has called on some great musicians including artisan bass player George Koller; master of many instruments and genres, and sideman to Ambrose Akinmusire, Jack Dejohnette and Roy Hardgrove. However, these star-studied appearances should not lead you astray from the certainty that this album would not have taken its first breath if wasn't for Laila. Laila is the star of this show. All the same, I have to add Mike "Maz" Maher from Snarky Puppy throws down a heavy trumpet solo in Serenbe.
The album is very well produced and I don't think it is coincidental the tracks are indexed in the order they appear. I have listened extensively in the car, at home and in public. The melodies took me on a wonderful journey of emotions and reflective thoughts. Laila conveys therapeutic and compelling ingredients; Serenbe adds a spice of neo-jazz, Wind is the aperitif and Let's Dance, the main course enticing you to belt-out the anthem pop classic to your hearts content, and still call it contemporary jazz without fear of persecution from the purist.
12 tracks made the final cut from 21 recordings taking inspiration form transitional moments of Laila’s life. These include: Got To Love, We Go, Satellite, Yellow, Refugee, Delores Angel, Queen of Hearts, Serenbe, Code Breaking, I Think It's Going to Rain Today, Wind (Rumi Poem) and Let’s Dance
There is something for everyone on this album; and I mean everyone.
I look forward to the success and inspirational stories that will follow this release.
Play this album, then play it some more.
Laila Biali - Vocals, Piano
George Koller - Bass
Larnell Lewis - Drums
Ambrose Akinmusire - Trumpet
Mike "Maz" Maher - Trumpet
Sam Yahel - Organ
Glen Patscha - Organ
Lisa Fischer - Vocals
Carlos Ricketts - Vocals