|The Laila Biali Trio is as beautifully balanced as a chamber music trio. Laila, the multigifted musician on keyboard, the beautiful and talented Brandi Disterheft on bass, and Sly Juhas (pronounced Yew hass), a drummer with a controlled, definite, open sound, work together to produce a clear, even, synchronized tonea rarity in combos.
Their first of three nights at the Montreal Bistro to celebrate a new CD (which will receive a separate report,) found them playing to a packed house of patrons, silent and attentive. The second number in a program of Standards and Lailas original compositions was Lailas Flying. Her music, which has a lovely sense of melody, starts off in time with Slys pulsing bass-drum, rises to the big rhapsodic, like one of Gershwins compositions, swells to the level of Rachmaninoff, then lapses into quiet poetic interludes that let Slys delicate use of sticks accent its flow, before rounding off to close.
An early tune of Lailas entitled Bright Feathered Sunny Weathered Peacock, opens with the drum, cymbals, and Brandis bass setting a cool rhythmic mood for Laila who comes in with progressions of percussive chords, both hands playing in unison, very jazz, ornamented first by Sly's jungle sounds on the tom-toms accented by the cowbell, then in comes Brandi with a six-note bass riff, echoed exactly by Sly, which brings to mind the image of a supreme hipster in a zoot-suit walking Times Square.
In another early Biali tune, Like Minds, Brandi carries the melody on standup, singing it under her breath like a lot of bassists do, while Laila comps quietly behind her and Sly provides sharp accents on cymbals. Beautiful ensemble work.
Laila also sang some Standards. Her voice can be breathy or full of brass. Her dynamics are wide ranging and well under her control. She has great daring in improvising melody and phrases from tunes like Ned Washington and Hoagy Carmichaels The Nearness of You, She is capable of a tenderness matching the delicacy of her piano arpeggios that sometimes reminds me of a plover rippling along a shoreline. That said, her excellent vocal qualities need to cook together a bit and settle into something more natural before Diana Krall needs to move over.
I am very looking forward to exploring the music of this wonderful group in my report on their new CD Inroducing The Laila Biali Trio. Wait for it.