Laila Biali is a Canadian pianist, singer, arranger and composer of the highest calibre. Winner of numerous awards, including Junos, a SOCAN Hagood Hardy Award for Excellence in Songwriting, and other prizes at the National Jazz Awards, some of which she is still the youngest recipient of. Now living in Brooklyn, she has accustomed us to a creativity centred on her own material, which is imbued with an elegance of melodies and the use of classical jazz structures in an inventive harmonic-rhythmic spirit. Her explorations of the Great American Songbook seemed to be a youthful memory, but only in recordings. She has long been in the habit of opening her concerts with a request from the audience, collected on social networks. Your Requests is a testament to these special requests, offered to the music lovers with whom the Canadian still keeps in close touch.
On Your Requests, Biali skilfully transports us into a slightly parallel universe of the Great American Songbook, with delicately offbeat touches, but without ever losing sight of the strength of the melodies. She fiddles with the rhythmic and harmonic markers just enough to make these classics her own and give them her very own reworking, but since they were originally requests, she knows not to stray off the path and rebutting her public by getting lost in the thick, raspy undergrowth.
The artist also has another asset: she knows how to surround herself. Whether you’re the legendary Kurt Elling (with whom she shares many musical affinities), the singer Emilie-Claire Barlow, the excellent double bass player George Koller, the clarinetist Anat Cohen, the harmonica player Grégoire Maret, or any other of the many good musicians on display here, you accept a collaboration with Laila Biali without hesitation, because you know that the result will be anything but ordinary. And that’s exactly what happens here with this first volume (yes, there will apparently be more!) of Your Requests, a return to the basics (and certainly not a step backwards) that gives great, great pleasure.