Laila Biali not only soars, she flies!

Laila Biali not only soars, she flies!

Mel Lastman Square was host to the 9th annual TU Jazz Festival. Truly one of the highlights at this festival was having the ever graceful and talented Laili Biali join the incredible line up and hit the stage on Saturday night. If you don’t know her music yet, it is a blend of contemporary Jazz fused with Pop sensibility and a freshness that literally keeps your souls refreshed. She has plenty of cover songs that she has reimagined with her unique song arranging abilities. She opened her show with Bye Bye Blackbird, a Jazz standard with a little lemon twist. I also have been hearing a lot of Joni Mitchell covers recently and Laila’s version of Woodstock brought a very reflective side to this song. Heck, you might as well do a Neil Young song while you are at it. Well she does and she wore her Heart of Gold right there on stage. For a quick second I thought I saw her flub a little bit, only to find out at the end of the song, she admitted to the audience, that she swallowed a fly while singing that song.

That is another reason to go to one of her shows; her openness to storytelling is fun, insightful and very delightful. Laila brings you to places where we all have been and she tells it with a sense of humility and joy. I love her story about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and how he is using her song “Pennies from Heaven”, on one of his social media sites. That’s when I heard someone saying loudly that she should rename the song, “Flies from Heaven”. A few people around me choked up with laughter.

If you are sugar addict, you are not safe, because Laila has a song about the true evilness about sugar and this song is oh so sweet! Nature Boy was done between just her and her bass player, George Koller.  This was one of the most soulful renditions I have ever heard. Of course, she made sure her band got plenty of credit, especially the Sax player, Kelly Jefferson who kept us cool with his proficient and fully developed sound. The guy behind the kit, hitting it with incredible precision is Ben Whitman, the ever happy partner of Ms. Biali. She finished the evening off with David Bowie’s “Let’s dance”. And so Mel Lastman Square left dancing in their hearts and soul. Simply, a beautiful performance.

As far as the TU Festival is concerned they will be back next year. The name remains the same, but they will be partnered with the Emerging Artist Association. Here is what they have to say.

Toronto undergraduate Jazz festival becomes EAA Emerging Artist Association on May 1,2023. We are promoting our vision of creating opportunities for emerging artists more clearly while supporting equity-deserving groups of artists. With the new name and a fresh start, we are excited about sharing our vision, goal and the emerging artists we are privileged to present each year.

Here are a few images of Laila Biali:

To learn more about this incredible idea, go to

For more info on Laila Biali, go to

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