Alton Fitzgerald White and Capathia Jenkins
SONGS IN JAZZ AND BLUES
on poems by
Music Composed and Arranged by
Produced by Louis Rosen and Scott Lehrer
Vocalists: Alton Fitzgerald White and Capathia Jenkins
Pianist: Joseph Thalken
CD Available for purchase at Louis Store (top of this page)
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"Rosen has respectfully taken the work of one of the earliest practitioners of jazz poetry and created symbiosis so organic, it's difficult to believe the two artists didn't work together; songs that reflect comprehension so visceral, Rosen slips a knot of race and history to reach the universal.
"Dream Suite, also a newly minted CD, is comprised of 14 songs derived from 21 poems spanning from the 1920's through the 1950's.... Like those in Porgy and Bess, the songs arrive full blooded and black, hybrid American opera--here without libretto.... I found myself hypnotized." Broadwayworld.com
"...Soulful and rapturous...A gorgeous and heartfelt achievement, brilliantly, holistically attuned to the source material, Dream Suite is a tonic for the times, crossing many boundaries of art and spirit. I would add that the album is a separate achievement in itself, one of the best-produced CD's of art song I've ever heard." Huffington Post
"...Rosen's exuberant scoring of Langston Hughes's equally exuberant ‘Harlem Night Song:’ Come/Let us roam the night together/Singing/I love you.'' Bloomberg News
This effort by Louis Rosen effort to bring the poetry of Langston Hughes back to life highlights something new to be found in Hughes work: a lyricism that lends itself to Lieder and, in the melismatic curves of Capathia Jenkins and Alton Fitzgerald White, a case for Hughes’ words to be food for modern arias as well.... The results are bracing, with a vibrancy and visceral buzz that is often undeniably exciting. Jazz da Gama
“If you have not heard this music, the passion and intelligence of Twelve Songs on Poems by Maya Angelou and Dream Suite by Langston Hughes was gripping. They are poems of reflection, remembrance and inspiration, with Jenkins interpreting the emotions that Rosen formed into music.” Cabaret Scenes
A Note from LR:
Langston Hughes is my favorite American poet. Though his poems often explored the issue of race, his work breaks through racial boundaries to touch the soul of humanity. For me, even his brilliant and iconic image of a “dream deferred” can now also speak to any fundamental, deep dream deferred, whether racial, political or personal. Most important for the composer, his poetry sings with a natural ease and grace that few poets can match. The language is rich in imagery – drawn from influences as diverse as Walt Whitman and various forms of Afro-American culture — yet always rooted in the American vernacular and soulfully direct in emotional expression. This description applies equally well to what I strive for in my songwriting, and especially in the making of Dream Suite. These songs find their inspiration in jazz, blues, classical music, popular song, art song and Latin jazz; and like Langston’s poems, I hope they manage to blend and juxtapose these influences in fresh ways, and with a soulful sense of expression.
Dream Suite is also dear to my heart, for it was written for, and beautifully sung by my friend, the gifted Alton Fitzgerald White; and the recording of it introduced me to the remarkable Capathia Jenkins – who sings here with great beauty and sensitivity – and with whom I set off on a new creative path that led to many more songs and cycles and recordings, a musical adventure that continues to this day.
Dream Suite is Part One of The Black Loom Trilogy, a set of song cycles on the poems of three African-American poets. This recording was made in 2002, the year the composition was completed. The world-premiere performance of Dream Suite was given by Alton and Capathia at the Great Hall of Cooper Union in New York City in June 2006.
The second and third parts of the trilogy were written specifically for Capathia. Part Two is One Ounce of Truth: The Nikki Giovanni Songs (2008), originally released on the PS Classics label. Part Three is Phenomenal Woman" The Maya Angelou Songs, released in 2018 on Di-tone Records.
Alton Fitzgerald White (vocalist) recently concluded a ten-year run as King Mufasa in The Lion King that surpassed 4000 performances. Known well to New York theater audiences, his other Broadway credits include: The Color Purple (Mister), Ragtime (Coalhouse Walker Jr.), Smokey Joe's Cafe (Ken), Miss Saigon (John) and Tommy (Hawker), as well as Smokey Joe's Cafe (Ken) in London's West End. Concert highlights include performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra live on the A&E network, and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra live on PBS. Alton’s recordings include the acclaimed Disney My Way. www.altonfitzgeraldwhite.com
Capathia Jenkins (vocalist) Broadway credits include: Newsies; Martin Short--Fame Becomes Me; Caroline, or Change; The Look of Love; and The Civil War. Off-Broadway: Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore; (mis)Understanding Mammy—The Hattie McDaniel Story (Drama Desk Nomination); Caroline, or Change; and Godspell. Recordings include the original cast albums Martin Short--Fame Becomes Me; Caroline, or Change; Godspell; Children of Eden; and three CD’s born of the collaboration with Louis Rosen: South Side Stories; One Ounce of Truth; and The Ache of Possibility; as well as many performances of Louis' song cycle Twelve Songs on Poems by Maya Angelou. CONCERT HIGHLIGHTS include soloist for many symphony orchestras in the U.S. and abroad including Cleveland Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops, Philly Pops, National Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic and Calgary Symphony. www.capathiajenkins.com
Joseph Thalken (pianist) is the composer of the musicals Was, Harold & Maude, And The Curtain Rises and Borrowed Dust. Thalken has also written choral, art songs, concert and chamber music. As a conductor: Victor/Victoria (Broadway),Gypsy (Broadway), Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra; New Jersey Symphony Orchestra; Aachen Stadttheater (Germany). Awards: Shen Family Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Foundation. He has taught music theater composition at Yale University and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967): Poet, playwright, novelist and social activist, a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes became the most original and revered of black poets. In addition to leaving behind a large body of poetic work, he also wrote eleven plays and countless works of prose, including the two-volume autobiography, The Big Sea and I Wonder As I Wander. The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, edited by Arnold Rampersad, is published by Vintage Classics.
The recording of Dream Suite was made possible through a generous grant from the Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Foundation.
Dream Suite is dedicated with love and everlasting appreciation to Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla.
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered at 2nd Story Sound, NYC
Engineer: Scott Lehrer
Art Direction & Design: Derek Bishop
Cover Photo Credit: “Langston Hughes, Chicago, 1941” by Gordon Parks, courtesy of and © The Gordon Parks Foundation.
All Songs by Louis Rosen © 2002 (Lullwater Music, ASCAP)
Poetry © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes
1. Harlem Night Song
Come, / Let us roam the night together / Singing. / I love you.
Across / The Harlem roof-tops / Moon is shining. / Night sky is blue. / Stars are great drops / Of golden dew.
Down the street / A band is playing. / I love you. / In the cabaret / The jazz band’s playing. / I love you.
I would liken you / To a night without stars / Were it not for your eyes. / I would liken you / To a sleep without dreams / Were it not for your songs.*
Come, / Let us roam the night together / Singing.
2. Lullaby: For a Black Mother
My little dark baby, / My little earth-thing, / My little love-one, / What shall I sing / For your lullaby? / Stars, stars, / A necklace of stars / Winding the night.
My little black baby, / My dark body’s baby, / What shall I sing / For your lullaby? / Moon, / Moon, / Great diamond moon, / Kissing the night.
Oh, little dark baby, / Night black baby,
Stars, stars, / Moon, / Night stars, / Moon, / For your sleep-song lullaby.
3. Life is Fine
I went down to the river, / I set down on the bank. / I tried to think but couldn’t / So I jumped in and sank. / I came up once and hollered! / I came up twice and cried! / If that water hadn’t a-been so cold / I might’ve sunk and died. / But it was / Cold in that water! / It was cold!
I took the elevator / Sixteen floors above the ground. / I thought about my baby / And thought I would jump down. / I stood there and I hollered! / I stood there and I cried! / If it hadn’t a-been so high / I might’ve jumped and died. / But it was / High up there! / It was high!
Wine-maiden / Of the jazz-tuned night, / Lips / Sweet as purple dew, / Breasts / Like the pillows of all sweet dreams, / Who crushed / The grapes of joy / And dripped their juice on you?**
So since I’m still here livin’, / I guess I will live on. / I could've died for love-- / But for livin’ I was born. / Though you may hear me holler, / And you may see me cry-- / I’ll be dogged, sweet baby, / If you gonna see me die. / Life is fine! / Fine as wine! / Life is fine!
4. Song for Billie Holiday
What can purge my heart / Of the song / And the sadness? / What can purge my heart / But the song / Of the sadness? / What can purge my heart / Of the sadness / Of the song?
Do not speak of sorrow / With dust in her hair, / Or bits of dust in eyes / A chance wind blows there. / The sorrow that I speak of / Is dusted with despair.
Voice of muted trumpet, / Cold brass in warm air. / Bitter television blurred / By sound that shimmers-- / Where?
The sea is deep, / A knife is sharp, / And a poison acid burns-- / But they all bring rest, / They all bring peace / For which the tired / Soul yearns. / They all bring rest / In a nothingness / From where / No soul returns.
6. Love Song for Lucinda
Love / Is a ripe plum / Growing on a purple tree. / Taste it once / And the spell of its / enchantment / Will never let you be. / Love / Is a bright star / Glowing in far Southern skies. / Look too hard / And its burning flame / Will always hurt your eyes.
Love / Is a high mountain / Stark in a windy sky. / If you / Would never lose your breath, / Do not climb too high.
Who cares / About the hurt in your heart? / Make a song like this / for a jazz band to play:
Nobody cares. / Nobody cares. / Make a song like that / From your lips. / Nobody cares.
8. Juke Box Love Song
I could take the Harlem night / and wrap around you, / Take the neon lights and make a crown, / Take the Lennox Avenue busses, / Taxis, subways, / And for your love song tone their rumble down. / Take Harlem’s heartbeat, / Make a drumbeat, / Put it on a record, let it whirl, / And while we listen to it play, / Dance with you till day-- / Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl.
9. Dimout in Harlem
Down the street young Harlem / In the dusk is walking / In the dusky dimout / Down the street is walking
Shadows veil his darkness / Shadows veiling shadows / Soft as dusk the darkness / Veiling shadows
Laughter / Then silence / Silence / Then laughter
Shadows veiling silence / Silence veiling shadows / Silence and the shadows / Veiling Harlem’s laughter
Silence / No one talking / Down the street young Harlem / In the dark.
10. Soledad: A Cuban Portrait
The shadows / Of too many nights of love / Have fallen beneath your eyes. / Your eyes, / So full of pain and passion, / So full of lies. / So full of pain and passion, / Soledad, / So deeply scarred, / So still with silent cries.
11. Blues at Dawn
I don’t dare start thinking in the morning. / I don’t dare start thinking in the morning. / If I thought thoughts in bed, / Them thoughts would bust my head-- / So I don’t dare start thinking in the morning.
I don’t dare remember in the morning. / I don’t dare remember in the morning. / If I recall the day before, / I wouldn’t get up no more-- / So I don’t dare remember in the morning.
Today like yesterday / Tomorrow like today; / The drip, drip, drip, / Of monotony / Is wearing my life away; / Today like yesterday, / Tomorrow like today.
13. Dream Suite***
Lonely people / In the lonely night / Grab a lonely dream / And hold it tight. / Lonely people / In the lonely day / Work to salt / Their dream away.
Good evening, daddy! / I know you’ve heard / The boogie-woogie rumble / Of a dream / deferred / Trilling the treble / And twining the bass / Into midnight ruffles / Of cat-gut lace.
What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun? / Or fester like a sore-- / And then run? / Does it stink like rotten meat? / Or crust and sugar over-- / like a syrupy sweet? / Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load. / Or does it explode?
Tinkling treble, / Rolling bass, / High noon teeth / In a midnight face, / Great long fingers / On great big hands / Screaming pedals / Where his twelve-shoe lands, / Looks like his eyes / Are teasing pain, / A few minutes late / For the Freedom Train. / Dream within a dream, / Our dream deferred. / Good morning, daddy! / Ain’t you heard?
Wave of sorrow, / Do not drown me now: / I see the island / Still ahead somehow. / I see the island / And its sands are fair: / Wave of sorrow, / Take me there.
Good evening, daddy! / I know you’ve heard
14. Gold and Brown (College Formal: Renaissance Casino)
Golden girl / in a golden gown / in a melody night / in Harlem town / lad tall and brown / tall and wise / college boy smart / eyes in eyes
the music wraps / them both around / in mellow magic / of dancing sound / till they’re the heart / of the whole big town / gold and brown
Come, / Let us roam the night together / Singing. / I love you.
*The text of the bridge of Harlem Night Song is the poem, Ardella.
**The text of the interlude of Life is Fine is from the poem, “Midnight Dancer.”
***The text for Dream Suite is made from the following poems:
Little Song; Boogie 1 a.m.; Harlem; Dream Boogie: Variation; Island ; Island