A musical marriage made in heaven: Capathia
Jenkins and Louis Rosen’s debut album is the soulful and personal
collaboration of the singer and songwriter’s lives.
The album, titled "South Side Stories," was released in October on their own label, RoseCap, with a dozen original songs written by Rosen and belted by Jenkins.
The vocalist is a true Brooklyn native, having lived in Prospect Heights, Bay Ridge and Park Slope, where she currently resides.
"Growing up, I just knew I wanted to sing, but I didn’t know what aspect," Jenkins told GO Brooklyn. "I didn’t know if I was going to do theater, be a pop star, whatever. I just wanted to sing. I grew up in the church singing at the Greater Bright Light Missionary Baptist Church - it’s still there! Way out in East New York."
After hanging up her church chorus robe, Jenkins, now 40, went on to become a Broadway actress with a resume including "Civil War," "Look of Love," "Caroline or Change," and most recently Martin Short’s show "Fame Becomes Me," which is scheduled to close on Dec. 31.
"Eight shows a week is a grind, but I look forward to it," Jenkins said. "The whole show is a satire. The chorus [of my song, ’Stop the Show,’] is ’let the big black lady stop the show’ because there is a random black woman in all musicals who does a big mamma gospel song."
In a review of "Fame Becomes Me," New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley agreed that "Ms. Jenkins keeps pumping up the volume. The audience, having first laughed a little uncertainly at the joke, starts to revel in the gospel beat, clapping along and bobbing its collective head. Sure enough, ’Stop the Show,’ alone among the production’s 20-some numbers, stops the show."
Although Jenkins said doing "Fame" is the most fun she’s ever had on Broadway, her main passion is her work with Louis Rosen.
"It’s interesting because he’s a Jewish guy [from the South Side of Chicago] and I’m a black girl from Brooklyn," said Jenkins. "So much of us is different but as much is different is the same."
Jenkins said she and Rosen met when he was looking for a female singer to record songs to the text of Langston Hughes, and Jenkins was recommended to him.
"Finding [Jenkins] was a blessing," Rosen said. "We are musical soul-mates."
After Rosen’s Langston Hughes project was finished, he told Jenkins he wanted to write solo music for her.
"People say that stuff all the time, and then you never see them again," said Jenkins. "But he came to me and was putting Maya Angelou’s poetry to music. I was like ’oh my God, if I could write, I would write like this.’ It was this perfect marriage of collaboration. Now we talk, and he knows where I’m at, he knows what’s going on in my life."
"South Side Stories" is inspired by Rosen’s life experiences and observations in Chicago, but he’s been a Brooklyn resident since 1981 and currently lives in Park Slope. The songs are narrative and lyrical tellings of relationships, personal growth and life in general.
"A lot of the stories [in the songs] are transcendent. I feel like I can relate to all of those things that he went through," said Jenkins.
"First, I think in a very literal sense the cycle is inspired by that neighborhood in South Side Chicago and by people who I knew and were parts of my life," said Rosen about creating the songs for this CD. "But ultimately, I think about halfway through the cycle, when you move into adulthood, it transcends the literal geography. These are stories about growing up, coming of age, and moving well into adulthood. Moving from innocence to experience. It doesn’t matter what literal neighborhood was the place from which the songs sprang.
"One of the things I found really just thrilling about the [the song cycle’s] reception [is] how many people come up to me and say, ’you’re telling my story,’ " continued Rosen. "And it’s people my age, my parents’ age, and people who are young enough to be my children."
Jenkins will perform songs from "South Side Stories" at Manhattan’s Joe’s Pub on Nov. 12 with Rosen on piano, guitar and occasionally taking the microphone himself. The duo made their Joe’s Pub debut four years ago.
"It’s interesting performing live," said Jenkins. "I’ll connect differently with a lyric because something new will jump out at me after all this time. I may say a line and look into someone’s face [in the audience] and see how it hits them. It keeps evolving as we go out and people come up and say ’I remember my first boyfriend’ or ’I was crying during this song!’ It’s one of those projects that really speaks to the core of who people are."
Although Rosen says most of his songs are not autobiographical stories, important moments in their lives have inspired parts of the album.
The song "Lullaby for Teddy" is written about Rosen’s son, and "Lucky, Lucky Girl" was inspired by Jenkins being in love.
The next collaborative project is a collection of songs to Nikki Giovanni’s poetry.
"We’re looking to go into the studio with that early next year, and try to have another CD maybe a year from now," Jenkins explained. "Those songs are going to be different than anything else, it’s going to have a different flavor."
"We hope to gradually broaden our audience, do concerts in other cities, and we want to keep recording," said Rosen. "Quite literally, there are three albums that I still want to do without even thinking of what I want to write next."
"So who knows what I’ll be saying," said Jenkins, "or what we’ll come up with next?"
Capathia Jenkins and Louis Rosen will perform "South Side Stories" at Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette St. at Astor Place in Manhattan) on Nov. 12 at 7 pm. Tickets are $20. For more information, call (212) 967-7555 or visit www.joespub.com.
"Capathia Jenkins and Louis Rosen: South Side Stories" (Rosecap, $18) is available at www.cdbaby.com and the Community Bookstore of Park Slope [143 Seventh Ave. at Carroll Street, (718) 783-3075]. For more information, visit www.capath