About Laila Biali
Laila Biali is an award-winning Canadian jazz singer, songwriter, pianist, and bandleader. As a side musician, she has worked with Chris Botti, Sting, Dave Brubeck, Paula Cole, and Suzanne Vega. Her sound melds bright contemporary jazz with modern and Great American songbook-era pop.
Biali began playing piano before she was five. She studied classical music and piano through elementary school through to graduating from the Royal Conservatory of Music. Studying at the school she developed a deep, abiding interest in jazz. At 19 she won scholarships to attend Toronto's Humber College. At 23, she released her debut album, Introducing the Laila Biali Trio. She won the CBC Galaxie Prize (Rising Star Award) at the National Jazz Awards. Two years later she won SOCAN Keyboardist of the Year and Composer of the Year at the National Jazz Awards.
Biali moved to New York and took numerous solo gigs and formed her earliest trios. She took whatever gigs she could find, and given her abilities as both a vocalist and pianist, found work with the aforementioned musicians -- she met her husband, jazz drummer Ben Wittman -- on tour with Cole. She established a solid reputation among professionals and her own trio began getting some notice. Biali's second album From Sea to Sky was released by the CBC in 2007. She was hired by Sting as a backing vocalist for a series of American television appearances and was part of his band for the DVD-released concert A Winter's Night: Live from Durham Cathedral in 2009. Appearances with Botti, Vega, and others followed. Her album Tracing Light followed in 2010; it was her first release on her namesake label and was nominated for a Juno award. Biali's annual performances at Glenn Gould Hall became must-attend affairs. Her Live in Concert: Sold Out album from 2011 made the playlists of over 80 radio stations in North America.
Biali continued her session work, but she also became a mother, so her trio's regular dates in New York and Toronto became her main musical focus. She also began writing her own songs for the first time. 2014's widely acclaimed House of Many Rooms was recorded with a quintet, orchestral horns, strings, and the Toronto Mass Choir. She not only wrote the tunes, she charted the arrangements as well. Biali is a member of the all-female New York-based neo-classical crossover quartet Rose & the Nightingale, whose members tour with Esperanza Spalding. On her own, touring and promoting the record continued unabated. Her performance at the 2016 TED Summit was filmed. In July of the following year she was a guest host on CBC's Radio 2 nightly jazz show, Tonic. In September she took over host of the station's Saturday Night Jazz program. All the while, Biali and her co-producer/drummer/husband Wittman were recording. In February she released Laila Biali, a collection of nine originals -- including "Queen of Hearts" co-written with Randy Bachman -- and three covers: David Bowie's "Let's Dance," Coldplay's "Yellow," and Randy Newman's "I Think It’s Going to Rain Today." Its star-studded cast included trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. ~ Thom Jurek
BORNOctober 3, 1980