Laila Biali Tracing Light

Laila Biali Tracing Light
Now NYC-based, Biali has made quite a splash on the Canadian jazz scene as a pianist and composer of real skill, and her talents have been utilized by the likes of Sting, Suzanne Vega and Chris Botti. With Tracing Light, she has ventured into vocal jazz, a move that may disappoint some of her original fans. This album is something of a hybrid, featuring takes on such standards as "My Romance," "The Best is yet to Come" and "Nature Boy," covers of tunes by other writers as diverse as Daniel Lanois ("Where Will I Be," an album highlight), k.d. Lang and Imogen Heap, and some strong original compositions, including instrumental "Human Condition." The choice of a Billy Joel song ("And so it Goes") shows the biggest lapse of judgement, in terms of song selection. One of the most interesting numbers is Biali's world music-accented "Joy," featuring guest vocals from Sudanese singer Waleed Abdulhamid and lovely guitar work from Rob Piltch. Biali has a clean, melodic vocal style, though it lacks any distinguishing marks that would set her apart from the plethora of other female jazz-pop singers out there. Her piano work remains fluently expressive and she's nicely assisted by such elite Toronto, ON players as Guido Basso, Kelly Jefferson and George Koller, who contributes excellent production. This is a pleasant enough outing, but you sense the best is yet to come. (Independent)