The squeal of sheer delight is how most days should begin.
And Laila Biali has good reason to do so on this Friday morning.
“Release day!” the Canadian jazz artist says.
Yes, her self-titled new album has just dropped and the results are already something that would make even the burliest of banger bands this giddy and giggly.
Mere hours into the day, and the Toronto-based Biali’s latest collection of original compositions and some well-chosen contemporary covers has already made it to No. 1 on the iTunes chart for jazz in Canada, No. 7 in the U.S. and …
“And No. 29 overall between Taylor Swift and Imagine Dragons for all of the genres!” she says, before adding, unnecessarily, “So I’m thrilled.”
“You just never know how it’s all going to go,” Biali continues. “It’s kind of like giving birth: you have this plan that everything’s going to happen a certain way, but then very often every thing turns on its head so you just have to flow.
“I’m tickled pink. I really did not anticipate this.”
She should have. The results thus far certainly shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to most who have followed the pianist, singer, songwriter and CBC radio host’s career over the past decade and a half — one that’s included six other albums, a Juno nomination and acclaim from some of jazz’s top taste-makers.
Nor will it surprise anyone when they hear the gorgeous record. It showcases Biali’s amazing finger, vocal and songwriting skills, as well as the gifts of the stellar band she surrounded herself with, wrapped herself in.
And it’s something of a natural progression — or perhaps correction — of what she started with her more pop departure, 2014’s House of Many Rooms, which she calls “such a big moment for me, in terms of reestablishing the original writing and also stretching a little bit and trying out some new territory stylistically.”
“And I feel like this album is the next step on that path, but we’ve brought the jazz back in, in a more meaningful way,” she says.
“When we went out and toured House of Many Rooms we really did feel like it was missing that element of spontaneity and improvisation and the capacity for the songs to take on new form in live performance.”
In some aspects it reminds of the great Joe Jackson and his most celebrated, New York moment, dancing effortlessly, expertly and in a truly inspired way along that line between Night and Day, jazz and pop, while giving each side enough to bring them over, help her crossover.
The fabulous covers will likely help, as she complements her own work with readings of tunes by Randy Newman (I Think It’s Going to Rain Today), Coldplay (Yellow) and David Bowie (Let’s Dance),
They all come from sessions where she and that band recorded 21 songs, including co-writes with Royal Wood, Marc Jordan, Sonia Johnson and Randy Bachman. Only the latter tune, though, Queen of Hearts, made its way in among the dozen tracks that grace her latest.
“And it’s not because the others didn’t warrant it. It’s that we really rigorously culled the 12 songs we felt were cohesive,” she says, while noting the other co-writes and the rest of the nine tracks from the album sessions will eventually see the light of day as bonus tracks, singles or in some other meaningful way.
“Even though the album is diverse we did really want to create something cohesive.”
And although it has now been officially released into the world, the unofficial official release party will come two days later, Sunday, Jan. 28 during a matinee show at the Ironwood Stage and Grill in Calgary — a city where she has strong connections, even more so now.
Her latest was actually released in Canada on the local jazz label Chronograph Records, run by the wife and husband team of Stephanie and Kodi Hutchinson — two people who have done remarkable things for jazz in this part of the world.
How that came to be, how they signed such a rising star in the North American scene?
“I actually approached them,” she says with a laugh. “A little bit like the gal proposing to the guy — not the completely conventional way of doing things.”
Biali explains that she was a huge fan of them as people and of what Chronograph had done, which includes releasing the Juno-nominated effort from the legendary Al Muirhead.
Apparently they were waiting to be asked to the altar, in love with her as an artist but not wanting to cross any kind of line knowing the working relationship between Kodi and Laila — he often plays bass in her backing band when she heads out on Western Canadian tours.
“So it was a celebration all around.”
And Sunday afternoon should be the same, with the Chronograph crew in attendance, as well as her sister who calls this city home.
Some day, some day — as has been written many, many times — Biali just may do the same.
“I’m so looking forward to it,” she says of the show. “I’ve been trying to get my husband to move to Calgary for years now and maybe some day I’ll wear him down and convince him.”
Laila Biali performs Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Ironwood Stage and Grill. For reservations please call 403-269-5581.