Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on Dec 21st 2010 12:30PM by Tabassum Siddiqui
Her ability to meld traditional jazz with contemporary pop allows Biali to easily move between both worlds, and that crossover appeal is evident on her new sophomore album, 'Tracing Light,' which pairs jazz standards (Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day) with recent pop nuggets (k.d. lang, Billy Joel, Daniel Lanois) so effortlessly that neither style seems out of place on the same record.
A handful of original tunes by Biali herself also nicely bridge genres, with collaborations with Sudanese-Canadian singer Waleed Abdulhamid ('Joy') and jazzman Marc Jordan ('Still the One'), a sultry French ballad ('A La Poursuite Des Marees) and 'Human Condition,' a spritely instrumental written during Biali's time teaching at the prestigious Stanford Jazz Workshop in California.
Despite her many accolades, rave reviews, and recognition from a wide array of fellow musicians, it's not always easy for young, emerging jazz artists to get their music across to a wider audience without either tipping into more of a fully pop-oriented sound or perhaps collaborating with higher-profile artists. But while Biali's sound certainly falls into "crossover" territory, she's managed to retain the purity of her traditional jazz roots in her nimble piano work while cleverly putting her own stamp on recognizable material, turning popular hits by Sarah McLachlan and Feist into sophisticated piano ballads as heard on her debut.
Perhaps the best example of this approach is her take on Brit iconoclast songstress Imogen Heap's 'Let Go' (best known to most 'Garden State' fans via the Frou Frou version of the tune) -- as most of Heap's songs center around a simple keyboard melody, it's not entirely surprising that Biali is able to strip the tune down and find its jazzy core. But it's interesting to note just how well the song stands up without Heap's electro trickery. Gone are the skittering beats and swirling effects of the original, replaced by Biali's sweet, clear vocals and plinked keys, which give way to brushed drums and bluesy, come-hither sax. The tempo quickly picks up, but it's still a far gentler interpretation, one that draws out the emotional edge of the lyrics.
"There's beauty in the breakdown," goes the song's main lyric, something Biali has clearly taken to heart in crafting her own version of this well-known tune. Fans of the original are bound to find something beautiful in the way she's taken it apart and put it carefully back together again.