Fred Astaire is not usually mentioned in the discussion of great American vocalists, yet the best songwriters of his time—the Gershwins, Porter, Berlin, Kern and Fields, Arlen and Mercer—all clamored to write for him.
"Lady Be Good," "Funny Face," "Change Partners," "Cheek to Cheek," "The Way You Look Tonight," "I Won't Dance," "Pick Yourself Up," "A Foggy Day" and "One for My Baby" are just a small sample of the songs he introduced, all among the greatest songs of the 20th Century. This special Jazz in July lecture, using primarily period recordings, explores the remarkable musical legacy of Fred Astaire.
Related Jazz in July concert: I Won't Dance: The Fred Astaire Songbook, Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 8 pm.
Louis Rosen is a songwriter, guitarist, author, teacher and 2005 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in Music Composition. Louis recently completed his thirtieth year of teaching the music theory and appreciation curriculum for the 92nd Street Y School of Music.
He has released three albums with vocalist Capathia Jenkins: The Ache of Possibility (Di-Tone, 2009), One Ounce of Truth: The Nikki Giovanni Songs (PS Classics, 2008) and South Side Stories (Rosecap, 2006). The songs from these albums have been heard on hundreds of radio stations around the U.S., as well as part of extended interview/performance segments on Public Radio International’s "Tavis Smiley Show," NPR’s "Tell Me More" and WNYC’s "Soundcheck with John Schaeffer," as well as TV’s "CBS Morning News." Most recently, Louis composed music for Lincoln Center’s Tony-nominated play Act One.
Among other vocal works are "Twelve Songs on Poems" by Maya Angelou, written for Ms. Jenkins, and premiered at The Public Theater's Joe's Pub; "Dream Suite: Songs in Jazz and Blues," words by Langston Hughes, and "It Is Still Dark: Songs of Exile," words by Celso Gonzalez-Falla, both of which premiered in concert at the Great Hall at Cooper Union in New York; and "Five Riversongs," a song cycle on poems from Spoon River Anthology, which premiered at the Lincoln Center Library and the Museum of the City of New York.
Concert appearances in recent years include engagements with Capathia Jenkins at venues such as Joe's Pub, the legendary nightclub Birdland, the Iridium Jazz Club, Cooper Union, Metropolitan Room, 92nd Street Y's Makor, The Brooklyn Public Library, Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater, The Gardenia Club in Los Angeles, Freight and Salvage in San Francisco, The Proctor Theater in Schenectady, Washington, D.C.’s Theater J; and Zimbabwe's Harare International Festival of the Arts, among many others.
Louis’ theatrical scores include three works for the musical theater: Book of the Night (music and co-lyrics), at Chicago’s Goodman Theater, directed by Robert Falls, and subsequently off-Broadway; A Child’s Garden (music and co-libretto), at the Melting Pot Theater off-Broadway; and the forthcoming The Pearl (music) adapted from a John Steinbeck novella, to be directed by Scott Ellis. His scores for plays have been heard in New York theaters such as the Roundabout and Circle in the Square on Broadway, Lincoln Center Theater and The Public Theater, as well in major regional theaters around the country including The Guthrie in Minneapolis, the Goodman in Chicago, the Long Wharf in New Haven, Seattle Repertory, the Huntington in Boston and The Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C.
Louis is also the author of The South Side: The Racial Transformation of an American Neighborhood, part memoir, part oral narrative, published by Ivan R. Dee, Inc., Chicago in both cloth and paperback. His theatrical adaptation of the book has been presented at Theater J in Washington, D.C. and The George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ.
In addition to the 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition, Louis has received major grants or awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, Meet the Composer, ASCAP and the Anna Sosenko Trust among others.