NYSMusic's Andie Chapman writes...... Four-time Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo has often advocated for human rights as she has been a UNICEF ambassador since 2002. Her music is imbued with compassion, and throughout the years she has contributed songs for important causes, such as her contribution song "Leila" for the Enough Project which raised awareness for women's rights in Raise Hope for Congo.
In 2020, the singer and activist recorded the song "How Can I Tell You?" by composers Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty who wrote "Ragtime," "Once on This Island," "Anastasia," and many more notable works. This song was included in a documentary directed and produced by Jeff Kaufman titled Nasrin. Often referred to as the "Nelson Mandela of Iran," Nasrin Sotoudeh fought for human rights in Iran, eventually leading to her arrest in June 2018 for defending women who publicly protested Iran's mandatory hijab law. The government sentenced her to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Nasrin now has COVID-19 and a heart condition, but even from the confines of prison she has continued to challenge the authorities.
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The Guardian's Dave Gelly writes....August Wilson's 1982 play, and the 2020 Netflix film, are about a lot more than music, but Gertude "Ma" Rainey ("Mother of the Blues") was a real person, and the action takes place around what was a real recording session. Music, and how it's treated, is the basic metaphor here, so music is an important accompaniment to the story. In this case – like the clothes, the cars and the surrounding scene – it must also persuade us that we are in Chicago in 1927. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis has certainly spared no effort in recreating authentic period sounds. Photograph: David Lee/AP
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WBGO'S The Checkout: SIMON RENTNER writes......We've always admired Shai Maestro's fearless approach to music. When he sits down at the piano, especially in an improvisational solo setting, he checks the temperature of a space and lets the music come to him, allowing one idea to flow into another. But he wasn't always that free.
On this episode of The Checkout, Maestro remembers a difficult moment on tour with bassist Avishai Cohen and drummer Mark Guiliana - a moment that would shape his career. In the middle of a performance, while playing his tune, the trio took an unexpected detour and he completely freaked out. That meltdown would change his thinking, and approach to music, forever. To hear Maestro tell it, what he became after this experience was more human - which is also the title of his new album, which ECM will release on Jan. 29.
READ THE FULL WBGO: Newark NJ ARTICLE & LISTEN TO THE SEGMENT
Following the success of the Busoni The Visionary series, Jeni Slotchiver is humbled to introduce something so intimately close to home. With Southern roots of her own, Ms. Slotchiver's debut ZOHO CD release American Heritage is her homage to the legendary composers preserving American folk music and creating anew. What was once familiar, is reborn.
Spanning 125 years, from Louis Moreau Gottschalk's The Banjo (ca. 1854-5) to Frederic Rzewski's Down by the riverside (1979), American Heritage presents piano compositions by composers of concert music, inspired by the melodies, dance rhythms, harmonic inventions and various stylistic elements evocative of the American experience. Of the eight composers represented, six are of African descent and two of these are women. There are quotes from spirituals, use of the African American pentatonic scale, the African call and response structure popularized in southern church tradition, polyphonic rhythms of jazz, and the rich, sultry harmonies of blues. With the exception of the rich musical heritage of Indigenous people, the largest and most important American folkloric body of work arrived on American shores with the first enslaved African people.
Jazz Weekly's George W. Harris writes....Pianist Jeni Slotchiver gives solo interpretations of music from early to late 20th Century, taking you to a different world of patience and space. While classically trained, Slotchiver has a rich blues touch and a bona fide feel for gospel and folk material. Material ranges from a homespun read of "Swanee River" to the spiritual "Down By The Riverside" as well as the folk classic "Shenandoah" but with an arrangement by Keith Jarret. Parlor moods are presented in a collection of pieces from Harry Thacker Burleigh and the genteel pen of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, on "Union" and "The Banjo" while traditional pieces like "Deep River" and even 1967's "Troubled Water" feel like they've both been drawn from the same well. A journey to another world and world view.
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Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and bassist Mark Helias come together to create duets discovered in the moment in a way that is rarely heard today with Some Kind of Tomorrow. The long time bandmates, separated by space and time find a way to play in real time with one another and the results are magical. Two master improvisers and composers bring listeners up-close and personal to the first spark of their imaginations at work, recording eleven duet improvisations over the spring, summer, and fall of 2020. The music is raw, authentic, intimate, alive, and unapologetic in its passion. Their sound is deep wood and polished brass recorded with a depth that is hard to describe. They played the music, recorded it, mastered it firsthand and are now making it available to listeners for the first time as a digital download on Bandcamp. Don't miss these fearless jazz explorers as they face the future.
Heard on Fresh Air, here's Kevin Whitehead's piece. LISTEN & READ THE TRANSCRIPT
Shunia is a duo that combines addictive melodies, ancient chants and polycultural rhythms into a sound that feels both new and timeless. Their music captures and conveys deep energies and spirit. The state of "shunia" means stillness, receptivity. Shunia's members, Lisa Reagan and Suzanne Jackson both performed with the Washington National Opera for 20 years before finding continued success in their solo careers. Coming together as Shunia, they combined their influences, inspirations and experiences to create genre-defying music with the power to transform and to connect you to the energy within and around you. It can put you in touch with something as simple as your five senses or as mysterious as the infinite.
American Songwriter's NADIA NEOPHYTOU writes......To press play on Shunia's new album of chants is to allow a wave of calm and relaxation to wash over one's whole self. For Lisa Reagan and Suzanne Jackson, who've known each other for 30 years, sharing the gift that's been a major part of their lives with others is the reason they began recording together as the duo Shunia in the first place. "Music in and of itself is such a powerful medium," Reagan tells American Songwriter. "It is the language of our humanity and our souls. We know these mantras are tried and true, and we have personally been chanting them for years."
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WFMT: Chicago 's Candice Agree writes....From the age of 3, CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe toiled at a keyboard-not in typing, as unintended preparation for his 13 years at the Washington Post, but in studying classical piano in Delmar, a suburb of Albany, NY. Although he loved playing, his interest in current events and politics pulled him into a journalism career. No stranger to Chicago, in 2008, O'Keefe was in Grant Park the night that Barack Obama was elected president. O'Keefe, 37, is about to become a fixture in the White House press room, as he will cover the Biden administration for the TV network he joined in 2018. But he has never left his first passion far behind. He shared some musical memories with us before taking on his new assignment at CBS News as Senior White House & Political Correspondent. Photo courtesy CBS News)
READ Candice Agree's Q&A with Ed O'Keefe.
An ensemble that attracts rave reviews and sell-out crowds at prestigious venues everywhere from Vienna to New York, the sensational SIGNUM saxophone quartet are now set to present their first Deutsche Grammophon album.
Laila Biali, equally at home in both the pop and jazz worlds - WVIA Public Media - Graham Album Review
Posted: March 23, 2020 12:00 AM
| By: Admin
WVIA - The Graham Album Review
Singer-songwriters come in all kinds of musical flavors, from old-fashioned folkies to punk rockers. The most familiar musical format is of the acoustic-guitar wielding artist who strums and sings, and sometimes brings in a band for their recording. But there are a lot of piano-based artists, from Billy Joel to Elton John to Randy Newman to Bruce Hornsby. And some of those piano-types show some jazz influence in their music. This time, we have a pianist and vocalist who approaches the music from a jazz perspective. It's Canadian artist Laila Biali, whose new release is called Out of Dust. In fact, on most of Ms. Biali's previous albums, she could be considered a jazz vocalist. The new release takes a decidedly more pop direction, but maintains the general musical sophistication of jazz.
Thirty-nine-year-old Laila Biali, a native of Vancouver, began playing piano at an early age and studied classical piano. She attended the Toronto school known as the Royal Conservatory of Music, where she was attracted to jazz. She released her debut album called Introducing the Laila Biali Trio in 2003, and later moved to New York, where she played piano for artists including Paula Cole and sang backing vocals on a recording by Sting, and toured with Suzanne Vega and Chris Boti. While much of her material has been very much in the jazz vein, she has done some interesting pop-influenced recordings, including a very creative version of Joni Mitchell's Woodstock on her 2011 live album. In 2018, she won a Juno Award, the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy, for her eponymous recording, her last release.
Now she has come forth with Out of Dust which, with the exception of one song, consists of all original music, and the influences run more toward sophisticated singer-songwriter than jazz. Her co-producer on the album is her husband, drummer Ben Wittman, who has also produced singer-songwriters like Patty Larkin and Lucy Kaplansky. There is a fairly large cast on Out of Dust with various horn players, backing vocalists and a string quartet who appear on various tracks.
Many of the songs were inspired by some turbulence in her life, with the death of a friend to cancer, a family member to suicide, and then Ms. Biali being diagnosed with two auto-immune disorders. So some of the songs have a degree of poignancy to their lyrics, but most ultimately come to an optimistic conclusion. While the jazz influence is apparent in the instrumentation on many of the tracks such as acoustic piano, and a big acoustic bass sound, there are enough pop ingredients to widen the appeal beyond jazzheads,
Opening is a piece called Revival which celebrates the 2017 Women's March and teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. It takes a kind of Gospel influenced direction, with a great rhythmic groove. <<>>
Taking a more jazzy direction is The Monolith which also features the string quartet. It's a musically outstanding composition, which maintains an appealingly melodic sound with the kind of compositional details that would keep a jazz fan happy. <<>>
Glass House is one of my favorite pieces on the album with its shifting colors and intricate changing rhythms, in the context of an attractive song. <<>>
Wendy's Song revolves around a character facing a difficult time, again in a creative jazz-influenced setting. <<>>
Taking a rather different direction is the song Sugar done in a funky groove. The song seems to be literally about sugar, which given the oblique reference to Ms. Biali's medical problems, might have led to sugar being off limits. <<>>
Another attractive song carries the title Alpha Waves a reference to brain waves generally present during wakeful relaxation. The piece makes good use of the string quartet. <<>>
The album includes a pretty waltz in French called Au Pays de Cocagne which however translates as "in the land of cocaine." The lyrics were written by Sonia Johnson, a singer-songwriter in her own right. <<>>
The one cover on the album is Take Me to the Alley written by jazz singer Gregory Porter. Though this is some jazz influence, with the sax present, Ms. Biali takes the song in a decidedly more pop direction than Porter's original version. <<>>
Laila Biali's new release, Out of Dust, her seventh album, is her most pop-oriented to date, and an altogether fine record that combines Ms. Biali's excellent vocals, with her jazz sophistication, and some first-rate original compositions featuring articulate lyrics, some based on experience. The arrangements, though sometimes involving a bunch of added musicians, remain thoroughly tasteful, with the extra players providing some nice sonic colors.
Our grade for sound quality comes pretty close to an "A." The sound is clean and has good depth. Ms. Biali's vocals sound warm and inviting, and the mix keeps the added musicians and arrangements in perspective.
These days, there are not many vocalists who are equally at home in both the pop and the the legitimate jazz worlds. In that respect, Laila Biali is one of the best.
SOCAN Music and JUNO Award winner Laila Biali shares an intimate acoustic cover of Joni Mitchell's classic love song, A Case of You, captured live off the floor at Revolution Recording Studios. This heartfelt interpretation, created with Valentine's Day in mind, features George Koller on upright bass and Laila's husband Ben Wittman on djembe.
Laila Biali – vocals, piano, arrangement
George Koller – bass
Ben Wittman – djembe, mix
JUNO-winning artist Laila Biali offers a stirring gospel-infused arrangement of Silent Night, featuring John Ellis on tenor sax. Biali grew up singing the classic carol in harmony with her sisters at candlelit Christmas Eve services year after year, and you can feel the emotion and nostalgia in her powerful delivery.
Laila Biali – vocals, piano, arrangement
John Ellis – tenor saxophone
Glenn Patscha – B3 organ
George Koller – bass
Ben Wittman – drums
Mixed and mastered by Ben Wittman
Artwork by Halla Creative
JUNO and SOCAN Music Award winner Laila Biali celebrates Canadian icon Joni Mitchell's birthday with an intimate cover of Mitchell's beloved song, "Both Sides Now." Biali's stripped down approach illuminates poignant lyrics that speak to the heart.
Multi-award winning singer-songwriter and pianist Laila Biali has performed on prestigious stages from New York City's Carnegie Hall to Beijing's National Centre for the Performing Arts. Known for her signature sound that "masterfully mixes jazz and pop" (Washington Post), Biali has received top honors including a 2020 SOCAN Music Songwriting Award plus the 2019 JUNO (Canada's GRAMMY) for Vocal Jazz Album. She has also toured with pop icon, Sting, and hosts a national radio show on CBC Music.
Laila Biali is at it again, cooking up some fall/winter content including the release of Anthem by Leonard Cohen on Friday, Sept 18, just before Leonard's birthday Sept 21. Biali will record a special 'Quarantunes performance video' for the release.
The 2019 JUNO-Award winner covers fellow Canadian and music icon; Leonard Cohen in 'Anthem,' a relevant song with a salient message for the times we find ourselves in: "Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that's where the light gets in." Leonard would have turned 86 on September 21, 2020.
This single releases on the heels of Laila's highly-anticipated 2020 album release, Out of Dust, which came out on March 27 and features an expansive ensemble of instrumentalists and singers including GRAMMY Award winners and nominees Lisa Fischer, John Ellis, Larnell Lewis, and others.
For nearly every major triumph-a highly acclaimed return to jazz, winning the JUNO Award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year, touring the world-the singer-songwriter has faced private debilitating crises. In just a few short years, Biali lost a close friend to cancer, mourned a family member's suicide, and was diagnosed with two auto-immune disorders that threatened to upend her career. It was a period of change and heartache-but it was also a season of great inspiration and hope. The result is Biali's deeply personal new album, Out of Dust.