The State of Bliss
All About Jazz
by Gregory J. Robb
“All you gotta do is let it out/Nothing feels good as a blue note/If you just try to sing…” Surgically remove the cantankerous vibrato from Barbra Streisand and you have Canada’s Karin Plato.
The State of Bliss is an outstanding 64-minute statement of Karin Plato’s personal and musical beliefs: in jazz vocal traditions, in peaces of mind and in personal roots. With the additions of vocalist Denzal Sinclaire, original songs and flavourful twists on old material, Plato and three different rhythm sections cascade us with a set of complementary vocal and instrumental jazz voices.
Karin Plato so personalizes her original music that we are left to idealize on the roots of her upbringing on the Canadian prairies. It is, ironically, the very simplicity of the aural sense that elevates Plato’s songs, especially “Big Black Crow” and “Here It Is,” to a level of cathartic cognition. The State of Bliss begins as any educated jazz set does but, by the time it is over, we are thirsty to maintain the moment.
“It’s a perfect prairie summer day/And my father’s fields are tall and swaying.”
This album has many moments. Karin Plato wisely arranged old songs to suit her vocal style and a dynamic set of accomplished Canadian musicians, including Ross Taggart, Campbell Ryga, Bill Coon and Tom Foster – all fixtures of the Vancouver jazz scene. On “Let’s Take An Old- Fashioned Walk,” Plato and Denzal Sinclaire pay fitting tribute to the universal beauty of Irving Berlin’s writing. On Rodgers and Hammerstein’s legendary “My Favorite Things,” Plato rephrases her cool jazz treatment over a mildly cooking bass line from Steve Holy. Karin Plato’s voice carries the texture that we often define with emotion.
“Have you ever seen a summer day that’s pure perfection?”
“Here It Is” portrays the deep musical and lyrical introspection that Karin Plato often feels at home in Saskatchewan, where she grew up (and where she wrote many of these songs). Even when chiding a lover for being a fool, as in “Time Will Not Wait for You,” Plato articulates her own recognizance: “Somehow I did the same thing/I lost my way with blinders on.” It is impossible to knock such candour.
Unfortunately, The State of Bliss is slightly fractured by a puzzling decision to fade a dual solo by Bill Abbot and Brad Turner to conclude the record several minutes before technically necessary. Karin Plato’s vocals were finished and she had an opportunity to let these players stretch out our imaginations. It would have been a perfect ending to the ideal moment of bliss.
As it is, Karin Plato’s The State of Bliss deserves to be embraced as we would hold on to our cherished memories.