The Langston Hughes Project—Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz

Visions and Voices

Harlem Renaissance poet, writer and activist Langston Hughes (1902–1967) changed literature with his innovative jazz poetry. A multimedia concert will feature Hughes’s kaleidoscopic, twelve-part jazz-poem suite, an homage to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at the beginning of the 1960s.

Harlem Renaissance poet, writer and activist Langston Hughes (1902–1967) changed literature with his innovative jazz poetry. Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz is Hughes’s homage in verse and music to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at the beginning of the 1960s. Presented on Hughes’s birthday, a multimedia concert performance of this kaleidoscopic, twelve-part jazz-poem suite will feature actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner and the Ron McCurdy Quartet. The performance will link the words and music of Hughes’s poetry to images of the people, places and events described in Ask Your Mama, and to works by visual artists Hughes admired or collaborated with. With musical cues drawn from the blues, Dixieland, gospel, boogie-woogie, bebop, progressive jazz, Latin cha-cha, Afro-Cuban mambo, German lieder, Jewish liturgy, West Indian calypso and African drumming, Ask Your Mama is a creative masterwork left unperformed at Hughes’s death. This performance recovers it with multimedia dynamism for a new generation.

About the Artists: 

Actor and director Malcolm-Jamal Warner first rose to national prominence starring on the celebrated and long-running classic television series The Cosby Show.  Warner made his feature film debut in Drop Zone and can be seen in the comedy-adventure Fool’s Gold starring Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson and Donald Sutherland. He also co-starred in the independent films Restaurant with Adrien Brody, A Fare to Remember and The List with Wayne Brady. On stage, Warner starred in the off-Broadway play Three Ways Home; Cryin’ Shame, for which he received the NAACP Theater Award for Best Supporting Actor; Freefall at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the La Jolla Playhouse. Most recently Warner received critical acclaim for the West Coast debut of his one-man show, Love and Other Social Issues. A seasoned director, Warner was one of the regular directors on the comedy series Malcolm & Eddie and also directed several episodes of The Cosby ShowAll That and Kenan & Kel, as well as a host of music videos. (Twitter)

Ronald C. McCurdy is a professor in the USC Thornton School of Music, where he served as chair of the jazz department for six years. McCurdy’s latest CD, April In Paris, features his new vocal funk band, the Ron McCurdy Collective. He is co-author of the vocal-jazz improvisation series Approaching the Standards and author of Meet the Great Jazz Legends. In 2008 he premiered the orchestral version of The Langston Hughes Project—Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra with rapper and actor Ice-T. McCurdy is in demand as a guest clinician, soloist, speaker and director of honor jazz ensembles and choirs throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and South Africa.

Related Event:

Poetry Slam with Live Music: A Celebration of USC Students’ Work
Thursday, January 30, 7 p.m.
Ground Zero Performance Café
For more info, click here

Organized by Ron McCurdy (Music), Gabrielle Pina (Master of Professional Writing), Brighde Mullins (Master of Professional Writing) and Michèle Turner (Black Alumni Association). Co-sponsored by the Master of Professional Writing Program and the Black Alumni Association.

Photo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner): Courtesy of BET Networks

  • Department of Comparative Literature
  • USC Dornsife
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Taper Hall of Humanities 161
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0353