Laila Biali, Robi Botos and Andy Milne win Juno Awards for top jazz albums

Laila Biali pulled off a big victory over her star-studded competition at this weekend’s Juno Awards in London, with her self-titled record claiming the title of vocal jazz album of the year.

The Toronto singer was up against albums by Diana Krall and Tony Bennett, Holly Cole and Diana Panton for the award, while also earning a second nomination in the same category for her role as the featured vocalist on Jodi Proznick’s Sun Songs.

In the Juno Awards’ other jazz sections, Robi Botos took home the Juno for jazz album of the year, solo, while Andy Milne & Dapp Theory won in the group category.

  • Vocal jazz album of the year: Laila Biali – Laila Biali
  • Jazz album of the year, solo: Robi Botos – Old Soul
  • Jazz album of the year, group: Andy Milne & Dapp Theory – The Seasons of Being
  • Blues album of the year: Colin James – Miles to Go
  • Adult contemporary album of the year: Michael Bublé – Love

“I am in shock. I’m so honoured to be here,” Biali said in her acceptance speech. “When I first started playing jazz way back when in high school, there was a lady by the name of Diana Krall and it was her music that I covered in a talent competition. And so I can’t tell you what it means to be nominated in the same category as Diana Krall, who really introduced me to jazz.”

It was Biali’s first Juno Award, after one previous nomination.

The album marked a new beginning for the vocalist, who returned to her roots to make an album that has jazz at its core but also contains plenty of crossover pop appeal. Laila Biali is comprised of mostly original songs, plus covers of songs by David Bowie, Randy Newman and  Coldplay.

Michael Bublé was a prominent figure at Saturday night’s gala, there to give a special award to renowned music producer and composer David Foster. The Vancouver-based superstar singer presented Foster with the 2019 Humanitarian Award for his work helping families of sick children as the founder of the David Foster Foundation.

Bublé also accepted his own award for adult contemporary album of the year for his album Love, a category in which jazz staple Molly Johnson was also nominated for Meaning to Tell Ya.

Highly respected Toronto pianist Robi Botos collected his second Juno in a row for his album Old Soul. It follows his victory three years ago for his last album, Movin’ Forward. 

“I’m a little shocked, as you can tell. To all my brothers and sisters who were nominated, it’s great to be on board,” Botos said as he accepted the award. “All the people that listen to my music, I truly am grateful.”

Botos gave a special nod to Larnell Lewis, who played drums on Old Soul and was also nominated in the solo jazz category for his own album, In the Moment.

He joined another former student of Oscar Peterson in taking home Juno Awards this weekend. Raised in southern Ontario and now a fixture of New York’s creative jazz community, Andy Milne won his first Juno for his album The Seasons of Being, along with his ensemble Dapp Theory.

“It’s a treat to have musicians in my midst that help make my ideas come to fruition,” he said. “I also want to acknowledge my fellow nominees because we’re all in the trenches together making creative, improvised music, and it’s difficult out there.”

The Junos as a whole were dominated by pop star Shawn Mendes, who won five awards including artist, single and album of the year. The 20-year-old’s eponymous third album includes the hit single In My Blood and others.

’80s icon Corey Hart looked right at home as he made a rare stage appearance Sunday night, performing the smash hits Sunglasses at Night and Never Surrender. Hart was there to be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.