Ken-Caryl duo transports audience back in time with classic jazz

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By Deborah Swearingen

When it comes to music, Elea Plotkin and Karen Banning have a similar story to tell.

As a 9-year-old living in Washington, Plotkin can remember begging her parents for a piano.

“I had that piano in my house, and I revered it,” she said. “I wanted nothing more than to learn how to play it.”

Across the country in Wisconsin, Banning’s experiences were much the same. Like Plotkin, she grew up in a musical household and learned to play music at a young age.

So, really, it only makes sense that the two would connect after both moved to Ken-Caryl Ranch years ago. And now, the pair performs together as Blue Sonnet, a soulful jazz duo with an appreciation for the classics.

While Plotkin has always been a musician and music teacher full-time, Banning taught for many years in Jeffco Public Schools. Since she retired, she’s had a lot more time to devote to music.

“Now I feel like I’m doing music all the time which makes me really, really happy,” Banning said.

The pair’s chemistry and passion for music is palpable when they take the stage. Together, they transport the audience back to a different musical era with ease. In a way, through sharing music that they cherish, Blue Sonnet is maintaining a piece of history.

“We’re preserving history and the art of the song in a way that’s honoring the song, honoring the composers, honoring that period of time which really influenced so many of the best musicians,” Plotkin said.

All about improv

As a choral singer by training, it was a bit of a challenge for Banning to learn the ins and outs of jazz. However, she always had an appreciation for the style of music and many of the classic jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald, George Gershwin and Billie Holiday who communicated through song.

“They were musicians in their souls,” Banning said.

Jazz allows more room for improvisation in creating a sound and delivering a song in a way that is unique to the performer. Plotkin never plays a song the same way twice, and it’s something both members of Blue Sonnet love about jazz.

“I like to try different things and to be always growing and recreating the song in a yet a new way,” Plotkin said. “It’s never stagnant. It’s always, always evolving and becoming something different and new.”

“It’s a lifetime journey. It never ends. I always say there’s room to improve across the board always,” she added.

Blue Sonnet will be performing from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 16 at La Cour Bistro and Art Bar, 1643 S. Broadway. To make a reservation, call 303-777-5000.

Elea Plotkin teaches lessons in her Ken-Caryl home. To learn more: Visit www.eleaplotkin.com, call 303-972-1984 or e-mail eleaplotkin@q.com.