As the story goes, Laila Biali’s parents were trying to decide whether to put their young daughter in piano or gymnastics lessons.
“Then one day, when I was about three and a half, I climbed onto the piano bench and started plunking out the melody of the theme from Sesame Street,” remembers Biali.
“At that point, it was decided I would begin formal piano lessons when I turned four.”
Her love affair with classical music and concert pianists such as Arthur Rubinstein and Philippe Entremont had her dreaming of becoming a concert pianist. It was during her teenage years that an arm injury forced her to change tunes.
“Painful as it was, physically and emotionally, there was a silver lining: I discovered jazz,” she said.
Since then Biali has gained worldwide recognition for her music and has performed at venues such as the North Sea Jazz Festival, Tokyo’s Cotton Club, and Carnegie Hall.
The Vernon Jazz Club is about to welcome the award-winning Canadian jazz pianist, vocalist and songwriter to its stage Saturday, April 16.
As a trio, Biali will play her original and contemporary arrangements including music by Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Feist, and other Canadian talents. Music by the iconic David Bowie will also be featured.
Biali has toured with Grammy award winners Chris Botti, Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega and has recorded with and supported international icon Sting.
“She is an exciting and unique talent, and I admire her greatly,” said Sting about Biali.
Her studio recording, Tracing Light, received a 2011 Juno nomination for Best Vocal Jazz Album of the Year, and her follow-up album, Live in Concert, was given an enthusiastic four-star review and named one of the Best Albums of 2013 by DownBeat Magazine.
In 2015, Biali released her first album of original music, House of Many Rooms, which features Lisa Fischer (back-up singer with The Rolling Stones who was featured in the film 20 Feet From Stardom), Jo Lawry (Sting, Paul Simon), Alan Hampton (Robert Glasper), and the Toronto Mass Choir.
Named SOCAN Composer of the Year and Keyboardist of the Year at Canada’s National Jazz Awards, Biali is currently working on a new album and is set to tour jazz festivals across Canada this summer.
Besides her performance in Vernon, she is in the Okanagan this week for the B.C. Interior Jazz Festival, where she will be a performer, adjudicator and clinician.
For this tour, Biali is joined by Juno nominated Adam Thomas (vocals and bass) and Joel Fountain (vocals and drums).
Thomas is not only a bass player, but also a talented vocalist. He will be singing harmonies and some leads Saturday night.
Thomas has played with musical legends John Abercrombie, Michael Brecker, and Kenny Wheeler. He is an in-demand Vancouver musician who has shared the stage with internationally acclaimed musicians such as Brad Turner, Bill Coon, and Joey DeFrancesco.
Multi-talented Fountain will also be adding his voice to the mix.
He has toured the world with trumpet legend Maynard Ferguson and has played with the One O’clock Lab Band. He is an alumni of the University of North Texas, where he received his bachelor’s degree in jazz arrangin and has travelled throughout Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand, holding master classes at various colleges and universities.
The Laila Biali Trio performs at the Vernon Jazz Club (3000-31st St.) Saturday, April 16 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $20 at Expressions of Time and at www.vernonjazz.ca. Jazz society members receive a $5 rebate at the door. Cash bar is available. The show is sponsored by Expressions of Time.