Capathia Jenkins & Louis Rosen: One Ounce of Truth
For many Broadway buffs, the idea of pairing poetry and song starts and stops at Cats, The Musical. But composer Louis Rosen and Broadway vocalist Capathia Jenkins prove the possibilities are endless.
Following their collaborative successes of musicalizing the words of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, they return to PS Classics introducing...
One Ounce of Truth: The Nikki Giovanni Songs, which combines Jenkins' sultry and soaring voice with Rosen's inspired melodies into a fresh and enthralling 13-song mix of jazz, blues, soul, classic pop and American roots music. It's a lush and memorable collection based on the vivid words of Nikki Giovanni, the renowned female African-American writer and poet.
After previewing the album at the Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe on April 29 & 30, Jenkins and Rosen celebrate the release of One Ounce of Truth with four concerts at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater in New York on May 12, 18, 19 & 26. For tickets, please call 212-967-7555 or visit www.joespub.com.
Eugene Lovendusky: Good afternoon; thanks for chatting with BroadwayWorld and congratulations on the release of your new album, "One Ounce of Truth: The Songs of Nikki Giovanni" on May 13. To celebrate, you've got some concerts lined-up at Joe's Pub. What kind of sounds and vibe are the audience going to enjoy at those evenings?
Louis Rosen: The music is very jazzy, bluesy and pop, even some folk-influence; and we've just got some of the best musicians in the city playing with us!
Capathia Jenkins: We will have our six-piece band with us, which is new for the people who've seen us before (we've been mostly working as a quartet).
Louis: The music runs a whole gamut; light and joyful to some songs that are really quite emotional. It's a group of songs – each song stands completely on its own; but together, it's a cycle of being in love and the loss of it, the joy, the terror. Also there's a journey from childhood to old-age. It's emotionally pretty-rich. And C.J. [Capathia] just sings the heck out of these songs!
Eugene: Louis, you've made yourself an impressive calling-card as a composer, shaping original music naturally around pre-existing poetry. How did you discover that the works of Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes could fit to a melody?
Louis: I used to work in the theatre and I had the great fortune of gaining a reputation of someone who could write vocal-music to words like Shakespeare, Brecht and Ibsen. I think dealing with those words really taught me how to make existing-words sing as if they were written to be sung with that particular music. That's the idea. If you tell someone you're making songs from poems, they may think you're making something classical or erudite. But as you can hear in "One Ounce of Truth," the style is pure popular song. Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou each wrote with terrific imagery but in the natural rhythms of our American speech. They all grew up listening to jazz, gospel, blues – and it shows in their poetry. The goal is to make it sound like their words and this music were meant to go together.
Eugene: Intriguing! Nikki Giovanni – called the Princess of Black Poetry – might not be the most house-hold name. For those of us less poetically-inclined, can you tell me a little more about her specific voice?
Louis: Nikki made a reputation in the late-1960s as a more outspoken, angrier black voice. Her poetry was very political. I've read her for years, but one of the things that drew me to wanting to make songs was that, over the years, she has mellowed some. There is a terrific generosity of spirit in her work. Instead of the anger of her youth turning into bitterness, she has a more open sense of the world. She's a joy to work with – we've kept her involved every step of the way.