Langston Hughes' epic jazz-poetry experience "Ask Your Mama" gets live performance at Singleton Center tonight for FREE

Posted by: brad – Feb 21, 2017


In 1957, Langston Hughes presented his essay “Jazz and Communication” on a panel at the Newport Jazz Festival. He addressed jazz and the blues’ reverberation through the country; from dixie roots and north-urban streets and clubs, the music was a powerful exchange. He begins the essay, “You can start anywhere - Jazz as Communication - since it’s a circle, and you yourself are the dot in the middle.”

A Harlem Renaissance poet, music was at the core of Hughes’ writing. At a time in which Modernist poets were shedding the conventions of traditional meter and rhyme, Hughes’ poetry was inspired by the rhythm, form, and refrain of blues music and often written in colloquial language.

Before Hughes’ death, he wrote a 12-part epic poem, "Ask Your Mama;" a tribute to the traditions of jazz and blues. It was meant to be recited with musical embellishment for a spiritually encompassing multi-media experience.

On Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. the Singleton Center for the Performing Arts will host a performance of "Ask Your Mama" with spoken word and music from Ron McCurdy as part of the 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 dawn 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.”

The performance happens tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 8 p.m. at the Singleton Center for the Performing Arts and is free to the public.

Words by Greg Rosenberg