Among the many Canadian musicians attracting the attention of listeners outside Canada is the pianist and singer Laila Biali. She was born in Vancouver, B.C., in 1980 and trained in classical piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Much of her popularity stems from recordings and videos covering hits by pop performers including Coldplay, David Bowie and Neil Young, but it’s her piano playing and arranging that have made impressions among jazz audiences. Here, Ms. Biali and her frequent bassist George Koller perform the traditional song “Down In The River To Pray.” Although research has failed to trace the piece to an individual, it is frequently attributed to an anonymous African-American slave. Ms. Biali’s brief piano solo suggests that she and the late Ray Bryant may have had common influences.
As for Ms. Biali’s wider connection to jazz, a piece from her 2012 album Live in Concert, tells us more. Here is Ms. Biali in her arrangement of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “One Note Samba,” with her husband, Ben Wittman, percussion; Larnell Lewis, drums; Koller again on bass; and an extended solo by the veteran Canadian tenor saxophonist Phil Dwyer. This was filmed in Toronto at the Glenn Gould Studio (speaking of Canadians).
Keep an ear cocked toward Canada.