Published Apr 15, 2015It's quite probable that we would have got Laila Biali's House of Many Rooms years earlier, but Sting got in the way. Well, so did Chris Botti, Paula Cole, Suzanne Vega, and a husband and child. Life happens, both the amazing opportunities to tour and play alongside those musicians, and the rearranging of aspirations that comes with a new family.
"The one thing about when you get involved with these big-name artists, especially someone like Sting, it can really elevate your profile," Biali tells Exclaim! "But if you get caught up in that long enough, and at that pace, there really isn't time to be investing in your own stuff. Even though it was very exciting, wonderful and enriching —and I'd do it again — it also took me away from being able to really sit down and write my own tunes and tour with my own project. So it was all a blessing in disguise."
That time touring as a supporting musician fostered some of the relationships that helped create the newly delivered House of Many Rooms, the independent release credited to Laila Biali and the Radiance Project. 20 Feet from Stardom alumni Lisa Fischer and Jo Lawry worked alongside Biali on Sting's tour and rejoined her in the studio for this album, and on the road, she met and played with future husband, drummer Ben Wittman.
"[Wittman] was the one who encouraged me to release these songs," Biali says. "I'd played them for him many years ago, because some of them had already taken shape, and he said these were worth sharing, don't worry about packaging them in the right way for your jazz audience because firstly, your jazz audience might go with you, and secondly, you might gain some new fans by not restricting yourself."
This project is best described as an adult contemporary pop release, certainly a departure for the 2011 Best Vocal Jazz Album Juno nominee. But by no means is it overly safe album. The production is incredibly dynamic, with songs making frequent dramatic turns in their second and third acts. It is delightfully ambitious, something Biali wears with pride.
"I always knew I wanted the record to be more cinematic or larger in scope because I love Laura Mvula, I love Björk, I love these artists who released projects that have pretty big instrumentation. So with that artistic freedom I just started to play in the sandbox.
"When you hire a 15-person choir, or a 15-piece string ensemble, or a six-piece horn section and you're on the clock in the studio, you really hope that the music comes together."
By now those fears are long assuaged. House of Many Rooms, a title taken from a New York City Baptist church sermon where Biali has served as music director, most certainly comes together in a gratifying and unexpected way. That seems to be a theme for Laila Biali.
In support of the album, Biali launches a Canadian tour tonight (April 15) in Calgary. You can see all the dates below.
04/15 Calgary, AB – Ironwood Stage & Grill
04/16 Victoria, BC – Hermann's Jazz Club
04/17 Vancouver, BC – The Fox Theatre
04/18 Kelowna, BC – Minstrel Café
04/19 Revelstoke, BC – Venue TBA
04/21 Canmore, AB – Communitea Café
04/22 Edmonton, AB – Mercury Lounge
04/23 Saskatoon, SK – Village Guitar
04/24 Winnipeg, MB – The Park Theatre
04/25 London, ON – Aeolian Hall
04/26 Hamilton, ON – Pearl Theatre Company
04/30 Burnstown, ON – Neat Café
05/01 Ottawa, ON – GigSpace Performance Studio
05/02 Toronto, ON – Little Trinity Church