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.