Thursday, October 29, 2009

Slope songstress hits a high note

By Meredith Deliso

Living in Park Slope for the last 20 years, Capathia Jenkins has seen the neighborhood go through a lot of changes. Lately, with new shops and restaurants popping up, despite the dour economic times, it’s been pretty happening.

“I always hear that during a recession new businesses start, and I’m really starting to see it now,” said Jenkins from her Park Slope brownstone recently. “It’s just an exciting, booming time.”

Jenkin’s own career is experiencing a similar boom, what with a new album out – her third – a string of shows at Joe’s Pub, and a run in a new off-Broadway production.Growing up, Jenkins was surrounded by music, singing in the choirs at her church, Greater Brightlight Baptist Church (251 12th St.) in Park Slope, and High School of Music & Art (now LaGuardia).

Since catching her first break (playing Aretha Franklin at a resort in Bermuda while a student at Temple University), the Brooklyn native has made music her life, starring on Broadway in “Caroline, or Change” and “The Look of Love,” performing with symphonies including the Cleveland Orchestra and with Michael Feinstein at Carnegie Hall, and releasing two albums with her music partner, composer and guitarist and fellow Park Sloper Louis Rosen.

On November 10, the two release their third album, “The Ache of Possibility,” out on Di-Tone, a collection of 12 timely tracks all written by Rosen for Jenkins, with lyrics by Rosen and, on four tracks, poet Nikki Giovanni.

“This particular record really came out of a time where so much is going on in the world,” said Jenkins. “Louis and I spent a lot of time together, having conservations like, do you think Obama will be elected? Did you open your 401K statement?”

Hence, emotionally and politically charged lyrics, like “All too long I watched a world gone wrong / Years and years I watched a world gone wrong / A president with no sense of shame / A trumped up war in freedom’s name,” on the title track, and, in “The Middle-Class (Used To Be) Blues,” a starving artist’s theme song, “My rent’s not paid / And my pay’s been docked / And what my doctor told me / Well, it left me kind of shocked / He said, ‘I read about your condition in the news / You’ve got those ‘Used To Be In The Middle-Class’ Blues.”

The two perform for four nights this November at Joe’s Pub, a hometown venue where they’ve presented their previous two albums to sold-out crowds. This time Jenkins’ soulful, powerhouse of a voice and Rosen’s graceful guitar will be backed by one of the biggest bands they’ve ever had.

That’s not the only place you can see Jenkins around town. Starting November 18, the singer will join “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” an off-Broadway play from sisters Nora and Delia Ephron. Featuring a rotating cast of female actors, including Natasha Lyonne, Rosie O’Donnell, Rita Wilson and Rhea Perlman, Jenkins will be on stage for a four-week run, reading vignettes and monologues based in part on the best-selling book by Ilene Beckerman.

“I’m so thrilled. I cannot wait to start performances,” says Jenkins, who’s excited to “have the opportunity to be involved in something where it’s all women, written by women.”

“These monologues that make up the show are so transcending,” she said. “Whether you’re black, white, green or purple, you’re a woman.”

When not shooting off to Times Square for rehearsals or preparing for symphony appearances, Jenkins finds time to enjoy her neighborhood and trying restaurants like Bark that keep cropping up. The singer is happy for those changes, and is pretty appreciative of her own recent success.

“I’ve been pretty busy I have to say, thankfully,” said Jenkins, before going off to prep lyrics in advance of the Joe’s Pub shows. “I would love some Brooklyn people to come out [to them]. I don’t think they’ll be disappointed.”

Capathia Jenkins and Louis Rosen play Joe’s Pub November 8, 14, 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. For more information, or call 212-967-7555.

Jenkins also joins the rotating cast of Nora and Delia Ephron’s “Love, Loss and What I Wore” at the Westside Theatre (407 W. 43rd St.), starting her four-week run November 18. Tickets are $75. For more information, call 212-239-6200.


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