July 2006

Laila Biali Trio
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
July 1, 2006Main StageToronto
Laila Biali Trio
by David Fujino with photos by Roger Humbert
Considered the 'Best Keyboardist and Composer of the Year' at the recent 2006 National Jazz Awards, pianist Laila Biali showed us some reasons why.

For one thing, she loves putting a personal and generational spin on old standards and current pop tunes. In many ways, she excels at it.

Singing in a half spoken/half sung style, and accompanying herself on piano, Biali made sure this uptempo version of "Bye Bye Blackbird" got a good brisk sendoff.

"The Nearness of You" was a musical highlight. She sang the ballad in lovely aching intervals and interpreted its lyrics with admirable poise.

But as a piano player/composer, her musicianship and harmonic sense was audibly appreciated by her bandmates, bassist Brandi Disterheft and drummer Sly Juhas.

In Biali's "Radiance" — a piece with sustained trills and a classical piano sonata feel, Disterheft responded by soloing with the deep soulfullness of a Charlie Haden. Drummer Sly Juhas contributed his trademark restraint and taste.

Laila Biali keeps evolving as an artist and performer.

Whether singing, playing the piano, or composing, she's proving to be the real deal.

The rest is a matter of time, hard work, and good fortune.

Laila Biali

Brandi Disterheft
Laila Biali Trio
by Paul J. Youngman with photos by Roger Humbert
Laila Biali is a young pianist/composer who has a style and composure that belies her age. She plays with authority, producing a grand full sound and at times reminding me of McCoy Tyner. The trio — who opened for Pharoah Sanders & Kenny Garrett — was comprised of acoustic bassist Brandi Disterheft and drummer Sly Juhas.

The first song entitled “For Him” had piano and bass playing in support of each other, Biali creating a full warm sound and Disterheft producing a solid rhythmic pulse pulling the audience into the celebration. Drummer Juhas utilizes a counterpoint approach, which was not working for me on this first song. The following song “Flying” from Biali’s CD of the same name, had the focus on the piano. Biali displayed some impressive playing in this classical jazz piece, very fast runs and beautiful bold chords.

Laila Biali has a nice singing style as well. She displayed her vocal prowess in the third song of the evening, “High and Dry”, a Radiohead song, she informed the audience. She performed the song in a Jamie Cullum style but with a more pleasant voice. The classic jazz standard, “It’s Just The Nearness Of You” started with Biali performing a piano solo intro and laying down some beautiful lines. This rendition of the song was one of the highlights of the set.

Other songs the trio performed with excitement and skill included “Radiance” which will also be used as the title of a new CD scheduled for a fall release. This song was inspired by a concert Biali attended, Brad Mehldau and Wayne Shorter. A very melodic piano solo in a slow classical style started the song, the band joined in after 8 bars moving it into a rapid pace. The next verse had Disterheft performing an excellent bass solo, she has a great style and puts every thing into her playing, excellent dynamics and a strong technique. The song would continue to build to an exiting finale. The trio played seven songs, most of the songs were composed by Biali. Laila Biali is a young new talent who has all of the ingredients to soar, I look forward to her new CD.
Sly Juhas
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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Paul J. Youngman The Live Music Report

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