Ron McCurdy's Langston Hughes Project
The Langston Hughes Project is a multimedia concert performance of Langston Hughes's kaleidoscopic jazz poem suite. Ask Your Mama is Hughes's homage in verse and music to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad at the beginning of the 1960s. It is a twelve-part epic poem which Hughes scored with musical cues drawn from blues and Dixieland, gospel songs, boogie woogie, bebop and progressive jazz, Latin "cha cha" and Afro-Cuban mambo music, German lieder, Jewish liturgy, West Indian calypso, and African drumming -- a creative masterwork left unperformed at his death.
Originally, Langston Hughes created Ask Your Mama in the aftermath of his participation as an official for the five-day Newport Jazz Festival of July 1960, where he shared the stage with such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Dakota Staton, Oscar Peterson, Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross, Otis Spann, Ray Charles, and Muddy Waters. The musical scoring of the poem was designed to serve not as mere background for the words but to forge a conversation and a commentary with the music. Though Hughes originally intended to collaborate with Charles Mingus, and then Randy Weston, on the full performance of his masterwork, it remained only in the planning stages when Langston Hughes died in 1967. Its recovery now in word, music, and image provides a galvanizing experience for audiences everywhere.
Dr. Ronald C. McCurdy is professor of music in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC). Prior to his appointment at USC he served as Director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC.