I thought it was very brave to start with Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”. But Laila Biali delivered an entertaining and convincing first set last night at Berlin’s A-Trane as part of her first German tour.
The Canadian singer and pianist, who also writes her own songs, is a 2011 JUNO nominee for “Best Vocal Jazz album of the Year” for her last studio album “Tracing Light”. She featured the track “Joy” from that particular album as the closer of her first set – a track which has the vocals of a Sudanese artist on record, but didn’t lack any of its exotic feel and spirit in trio setting. George Koller on bass and Jim Doxas on drums both had shining roles as accompanists as well as soloists.
Biali’s trademark is the total re-arrangement of well-known tunes. On “The Best Is Yet To Come” for example, she played with a very fast tempo and had Doxas take over the lead role, and then built in several changes in tempo as well which worked out great. She also had a Leonard Cohen track and a Leslie Feist song, both also fellow Canadians. What she often does in her performances is to take requests. And one of those from an earlier concert a while ago, was David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”, a song that I thought would not really transform into a proper jazz context, but Biali convinced again, especially with her sultry voice and very deep piano playing, using those time changes again to good effect.
She also mentioned that she spent a month or so in Germany while she was four years old and the only sentence she knew back then and still knows now goes like this: Can I have some chocolate on my bread? That’s all you need to know anyway.
Biali continues her tour in Munich and Cologne before she goes to the Czech Republic. www.lailabiali.com