Left to Right: Chris Gestrin, Karin Plato, Laurence Mollerup, Marcus Mosely, Joe Poole, James Danderfer, and Rod Murray
Photo Credit: Vincent Lim
What a wonderfully rainy Vancouver Monday morning! I’m sitting at the kitchen table looking out at the buckets of rain coming down on the garden, delighting in my double-sweet London Fog and playing track 10 on Karin’s new CD “This Could Be the One”. I can't stop listening to the album since I got my paws on it Friday night after her sumptuous performance at Pyatt Hall. Every time her voice comes in I get the shivers. Her attack, the technicality of her singing is always reflective of the feeling and story that seems to come from an honest place within her every time.
Let me take you back to Friday night, it’s lightly sprinkling outside and for the first time this season it feels like fall, with the darkened evening rain clouds and slick road kicking up light as if it was it’s own bio-luminescent creature.
For those of you who haven’t seen Pyatt Hall, it is an aesthetic feast for the eyes and ears. The warm wood and red velvet-like seats warm up the grey stones in the walls that look like they could’ve been put in by a mason, the back wall of the stage has two sections of multi-coloured wood that looks like waterfalls, and the stage itself is small and quaint, blessed with the infamous Steinway & Sons grand that sits nonchalantly to one side this evening.
Karin, despite being the booker, promoter, coordinator, and all other roles that go into making an event happen, is not looking like she is anything else but relaxed. She is welcomed on stage by her good friend Jim Gordon of Our City Tonight. Adorned in her red and purple shift dress with the big ruffled sleeves, simple tear drop earrings, and a chunky multi-plexed clear-stone necklace, she draws the crowd’s attention, and she hasn’t even sung her first note. Her iconic not-so-pixie cut bows with her head as she humbly acknowledges her teacher and mentor Lorraine Foster who sits in the first row along with her husband and friends who’ve helped her make this event happen. My date and I are also lucky enough to sit in the first row as we’ve been looking forward to this event for the last two weeks.
Enters the band, and what a band it IS ladies, gentlemen, and people. We have THE Chris Gestrin on the Steinway, someone I’ve seen many times in a plethora of varied genres and who always fits impeccably into whatever band/project he’s playing in, all the while reaching out with his ears and harmonies to support the group’s players. Next a player I’ve never seen before in my life, Laurence Mollerup - fast forward to about one-and-a-sixteenth note into the set and me being puzzled as to how the heck I hadn’t heard of this heavy cat before. Of coarse, my date who plays bass made sure for us to sit strategically so that he could see what Mollerup was going to get up to all night. Then, my personal favourite instrumentalist to watch, Joe “Iceman” Poole, who went above and beyond the other player’s suits (which is RARE in Vancouver jazz, like the RAREST but we’ll talk about the fashion of jazz in Vancity in another blog!) with a skinny black tie! Let it be known that I have never seen Iceman without his jacket on if he came with it, no matter how hot the session. For someone who plays the craziest business on his kit and percussive accessories he never seems to break a sweat, his demeanor is calm, cool, and understated – there’s no other explanation except the possibility of ice water in his veins. Next up, the woodwind extraordinaire James Danderfer, I must confess even though he seems to be everywhere doing all the things, this was my first time hearing him live! His weapons of choice for this evening were the clarinet and the bass clarinet. Being a very pathetic hobby bassoonist, I have a very warm regard for bass clarinets and other low woodwinds - they’re underrated! Last but not least, another guy I ain’t never seen before, Rod Murray on trombone, again, it took about two seconds for me to ask myself why the heckin heck I hadn’t heard of this guy before either. Karin would also invite the remarkable Marcus Mosely on stage for a few duets, in lieu of the two other vocalists that appear on the album (both were not available for this evening) and Marcus and Karin were just heavenly.
There were two sets for the night, both of them containing songs from her hot new album “This Could Be The One” and other tunes she had been working on incorporating into her sets, she told us this herself. Again, such an honest artist that brings you into her work. I had been lucky enough to ask and receive the setlist from Karin, which gave me more insight into her own process as a vocalist.
Vocalists are often perceived as not doing much, but that is not the case, especially when it’s your gig. Vocalists are often running the night, they’re the person designated to talk between songs and entertain and host, as much as they are also navigating the songs in real time making sure to connect and communicate to the other musicians as to what’s next and what’s happening. If you consider that most vocalists do not have perfect pitch, and often no instrument in hand to reference pitches as we’re careening along the jazz interstates, you would think that most vocalists are adrenaline junkies driving a bus blindfolded. On top of that, this is Karin’s project, or Karin’s gig – that means she’s leading everything. In a world where most of these cats probably haven’t had rehearsal due to other gigs and lack of time and/or schedule coordination, Karin set up a pretty clear road map in her setlists. The title in black, the instructions on form and who’s soloing in red beside it, size 20 font at least – clear and straight forward. That being said, she’s also got a high-level band of pros who have a deep respect for Karin as both a musician, person, and artist. So in short, her sets were magical and went off without a hitch.
Some highlights, according to my date and I were:
Karin’s rendition of the classic “Heart and Soul” as a duet, her playing the Steinway and Danderfer on his bass clarinet. I personally cannot get ENOUGH of this, this is track 10 on her new album, and thank god because I am listening to this one track over and over and over again!
“Insomnia” IS SO GOOD! Man this song is just…wow, and the section at the end where the band is just building, so so so amazing. I love the lyricism of Karin’s words and the imagery she invokes, in my opinion overall one of the best songs on the album, and an amazing song live.
Mollerup’s solo on “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, in which he blew us all away with his note choices and phrasing. I believe it was the one full-form solo he took the whole night, but he said it all in that solo. Ask my date for more juicy bass details, you can find him wherever there are basses.
Marcus and Karin’s duets, particularly “Sorrow” – this was a moving performance, and their two voices formed into the most efficient heart-string plucker I’ve ever encountered.
To summarize, (because I need proper sentence starters sometimes) Karin is a generous, honest and kind person, and this comes across in her music. All her originals are deep and meaningful, reflecting aspects of her life that can be quite heavy, and she tells her stories with a vulnerability that, according to my own opinion, is the pinnacle of a successful jazz performance. I highly recommend you go see her, whether it be a jazz workshop, performance, whatever. You need Karin Plato in your life.
Some people might say I’m biased, and they would be right! To be honest, even if you were the worst person in the world and went into a Karin Plato performance wanting to write a scathing review, you’d come out singing her praises, it is simply impossible to not love Karin Plato. Her humble majesty of story and song makes those momentous music experiences that I am happy to write lavishly about - as if that could do justice to her performance!