“J. Otis Powell! spells his name with an exclamation point and demands truth, sincerity and accountability.” –Pulse of the Twin Cities
“Powell’s delivery is deeper, more measured, adding a gravity and weight to the words simply through his bass intonation alone.” –Justin Schell
“I live and work in an aesthetic informed by jazz principles and I practice true democracy as art and religion in a world resistant to all three.” –J. Otis Powell!
Noted Twin Cities writer and performance artist, J. Otis Powell’s first full album THEOLOGY: LOVE & REVOLUTION was a ground breaking work bringing together three of the Twin Cities finest musicians and five word performers in a cataclysmic word-funk-jazz-playground! The album, which was originally released in 1998, is reissued and re-mastered by Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records and available for download online beginning April 6, 2010. The re-mastered version breathes new life into the album illuminating the already rhythmic possibilities. The reissue attempts to expand this innovative work to a broader audience regionally and nationally.
The form of THEOLOGY defies convention. The music palette of the album almost evokes an outer-worldly audio response. Appearing like prose, its very genesis and thrust is poetry, and it must be read as such, the rhythms of the words contributing as much to the meaning of the piece as their literal definitions. Further, the plurality of voices heard in this recording is an integral part of the piece. While THEOLOGY purports to examine the different dimensions of self, in its larger context it is about community, and how the community of voices around us can inhabit beings, and help us to become ourselves. There is also a deliberate fluidity in its time frame, expressed through an ever-changing verb tense, that imitates the fluidity of the spirit in conversation with itself and the rest of the world: “I am ever-changing, liquid like time. I am not a destination but a journey. I am changing seasons, I am the reason I traveled such distance to love. I am at once my lover/myself, we are one with the theology of time, space, and an ancient dream coming true.” Be advised that this is not your typical spoken word. To be transported simultaneously through the musical and theatrically delicious way that Powell does is a delight!
His interdisciplinary background informed the selection of star talent. Word performers Lynette Rieni-Grandell, Venus De Mars of All The Pretty Horses, Dee Henry Williams, and Earcie Allen provide vocal layering that at times is threaded into a one voice harmony such as the opening track titled “So There I Was, Right?” Music is provided by musicians including Impulse label artist José James (UK), Rene Ford (TX) and Malina D. Rauschenfels (MN), who do a brilliant job constructing a landscape that is highly adaptable while never losing shape. Visual artist Jennifer Davis’ cover painting accompanied by Del Bey’s design accented the album with minimalist yet sensual imagery.
“…we jumped inside a freedom train to ride its rhythmic sound, we got aboard a love supreme to lay our burdens down.” (Powell!)
The album is a combination of stories, thoughts, dreams, and visceral–sometimes–spiritual statements centered around love. The titles of each of the 7 tracks are perhaps as provocative as the pieces themselves: Cliché, Disbelieving Hearts, Dancing Dead, Consequences, The Woman At The Well, Flow Ago and Tell. When the album was first released over 10 years ago, Powell! moved it into the realm of performance art, producing staged performances of “THEOLOGY: Love & Revolution” at Studio 6A in Hennepin Center for the Arts and at the Knitting Factory in New York.
“In linking the exploration of divine spirituality to the dialogues of love, J. Otis Powell! is furthering a longstanding tradition, heretofore more visible in music than in poetry, which now finds its expression in the music of this poetry. Listen, the voices of everylove can be heard in the study of THEOLOGY.” – Lynette Rieni-Grandell
In addition to the prose poem Theology this recording includes two bonus tracts recorded in Tucson AZ with tHE eDGE eNSEMBLE featuring Steve Roach, Linda Kohanov and J. Otis Powell!
You can listen to the album here.