FLYING HIGH IN THE JAZZ SKY viewed by Stanley Fefferman

Mike Ruby’s debut CD entitled “Playtime” was released a few days ago at The Rex Hotel in Toronto with a live performance attended by a multitude of well-wishers, among them lots of jazz heavy hitters. And no wonder. Ruby on tenor sax in quartet benefits by comparison to the young Joshua Redman. Warm even tone, flexible attack, a composer of listenable tunes, with a feel for the lyrical mode in tender standards like “Someday My Prince Will Come”, virtuoso technique on fast, wild runs, and a love of adventure in improv that goes out out and far out.

Ruby’s backstory made news last year, when JazzFM, in conjunction with Universal Music and Alma Records, held the inaugural National Project Jazz contest at The Rex Hotel in Toronto. There were over 60 tapes submitted from across Canada. Mike Ruby won and received $15,000.00 towards his debut recording on Alma Records (distribution via Universal) and, in July Mike Ruby, under the guidance of Alma president and producer, Peter Cardinali and co-producer, Universal Music’s Scott Morin, recorded Playtime at Phase One Studios with Mike’s outstanding band (Pascal Le Boeuf, piano;Dan Fortin, bass, Adam Arruda, drums).

Mike is currently living in New York on a two-year scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music. He is the lone accepted student to receive the President’s Award for exceptionally high merit (2007). Mike’s website is http://www.mikeruby.com/

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Laila Biali has been one of my favourites since I wrote about her trio at the late Montreal Bistro in January of ’05. Laila has such an abundance of sheer talent as a pianist and composer, and she sings very well. Her voice can be breathy or full of brass. Her dynamics are wide-ranging and well under her control. She has great daring in improvising melody and she is capable of a tenderness matching the delicacy of her piano arpeggios. However, back at the time of her first CD I wrote, “Her excellent vocal qualities need to cook together a bit and settle into something more natural before Diana Krall needs to move over.”

Laila’s new CD entitled “from sea to sky” (available online) features 9 of Laila’s terrific compositions and two standards all of which Laila has arranged for herself on vocals and piano backed by the most pro dream team of jazz players in the country: Phil Dwyer on saxes, Don Thompson on vibes, Guido Basso on trumpet and flugelhorn, Rob Piltch on guitar, George Koller on bass, and Darnell Lewis on drums. The music is no less than first rate. One little problem is that Laila sings on almost every cut:the sameness of the vocal tones gives me a feeling of monotony. The album is gorgeously produced.There are generous samples of her tunes on Laila’s website. Check it out and give them a listen. www.lailabiali.com/main.html

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