The Langston Hughes Project

Ask Your Mama:  12 Moods for Jazz
Starring the Ron McCurdy quartet

Check out this special introduction video!

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LANGSTON HUGHES PROJECT
Use the password LHP2021

See the video anytime between now through Feb. 28, then return here for a live Zoom Q & A with Ron McCurdy on March 1 at 7:30 p.m.  To register for the Q&A, please email cca@maine.edu.


The Langston Hughes Project is a multimedia concert performance of Langston Hughes’s kaleidoscopic jazz poem suite, Ask Your Mama  – 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. Ask Your Mama 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.

A joyous celebration of music, spoken word and visuals, The Langston Hughes Project is performed by the impressively versatile Dr. Ron McCurdy (as narrator and on trumpet) and his talented group of musicians (on piano, bass and drums) who make heads bob, fingers snap and feet tap throughout.   

This multimedia concert performance  links the words and music of Hughes’ poetry to topical images of Ask Your Mama’s people, places, and events, and to the works of the visual artists Langston Hughes admired or collaborated with most closely over the course of his career — the African-inspired mural designs and cubist geometries of Aaron Douglas, the blues and jazz-inspired collages of Romare Bearden, the macabre grotesques of Meta Warrick Fuller and the rhythmic sculptural figurines and heads and bas reliefs of Richmond Barthe, the color blocked cityscapes and black history series of Palmer Hayden and Jacob Lawrence. 

Together the words, sounds, and images recreate a magical moment in our cultural history, which bridges the Harlem Renaissance, the post World War II Beat writers’ coffeehouse jazz poetry world, and the looming Black Arts performance explosion of the 1960s.

The creator of the entire piece, Dr. McCurdy, is a Professor of Music in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, where he served as chair of the jazz department for 6 years. Dr. McCurdy is a consultant to the Grammy Foundation educational programs including serving as director of the National Grammy Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Guest artists he has worked with include Joe Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Leslie Uggams, Arturo Sandoval, Diane Schuur, Ramsey Lewis, Mercer Ellington, Dr. Billy Taylor, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, and Dianne Reeves.


This event is made possible in part by support from
The Barbara Ann Cassidy Collins Center for the Arts Fund and the McGillicuddy Humanities Center