March 2006
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The Laila Biali Trio | with Bill McBirnie
March 12, 2006The PilotToronto
Guesting
by David Fujino with photo by Roger Humbert
It was a Laila Biali afternoon at The Pilot.

In the first set, the Laila Biali Trio played inventively on a mix of moody standards and challenging original compositions.

On surging Yamaha keys, the leader displayed a rich harmonic imagination and an open eagerness to play music.

She maintained a vigorous dialogue with her responsive musical associate, bassist Brandi Disterheft, and frequently applauded Mark Kelso's tasty compositional drumming.

And, Biali sang.

On "My Funny Valentine", Laila's horn-like singing spun out of her sophisticated harmonic sense. She sang the lyrics clearly and respectfully, and (mercifully) avoided the slavish mannerisms of scat that so many vocalists rely on. Clearly, this reporter leans toward instrumental music — but, is obviously open to exceptions to the rule.

Biali also loves to sing contemporary material by performers like the singer Bjork and the singer/pianist Jamie Cullum. She thanked Cullum for his version of "High And Dry" (first performed by Radiohead) because she finally understood the lyrics and appreciated how wonderful they really were.


Laila Biali (2004)
In the second set, guest flutist Bill McBirnie stepped up to play with the warmed-up Biali trio.

This listener anticipated hearing material from McBirnie's new prize-winning CD, Paco Paco, but the set proved to be a true guest outing for McBirnie who improvised energetically on a mix of Biali compositions — the bossa nova-styled "Like Minds" and the anthem-themed "Flying" — and really got down on one of Biali's reharmonized 'standards', "Here Comes The Rain", based on the classic ballad, "Here's That Rainy Day".

On "Here Comes The Rain", the spirit of play was especially high, as McBirnie dropped his right shoulder into the current of high velocity lines flying out of his flute, now and then counterbalancing the pouring sound with his right knee upraised.

McBirnie's fleet silvery playing was featured with the Biali Trio this particular afternoon. Meanwhile, a guy in the audience told me that a few weeks ago saxophonist Tara Davidson played with the trio at The Pilot, so this practice of guesting — inviting musical friends to play with you — is something that Laila Biali has been developing at The Pilot.

Grander scale guesting is practiced by the American 'pop jazz' trumpet player, Chris Botti, who recently got a PBS tv special together and invited stars like Sting and Gladys Knight to perform with him in a concert hall in front of a full orchestra with strings and winds, plus a jazz trio, all of it framed by lush arrangements.

So here was the Laila Biali Trio at The Pilot, with Bill McBirnie guesting in a small-scale setting. It was an audience-friendly afternoon of modern jazz standards, Biali's many-part compositions, and some interesting pop jazz tunes.

No, it wasn't just bebop, and maybe that's good.

www.lailabiali.com
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
davidfujino@thelivemusicreport.com
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