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Langston Hughes’s Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz Featuring the Ron McCurdy Quartet


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A raging, inspired revival that would make Langston Hughes proud . . . Ask Your Mama is as relevant today as it was in 1960.


Although interweaving of verse, music, and images is not unusual these days, few have created such a poignant, eloquent, and exceptionally soulful work.

Jazz Times UK

By way of videography, this concert performance links the words and music of Hughes’s 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. Together, the words, sounds, and images re-create 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.

Jazz was a cosmopolitan metaphor for Hughes, a force for cultural convergence beyond the reach of words or the limits of any one language. It called up visual analogues for him as well, most pointedly the surrealistic techniques of painterly collage and of film editing developed in this country in the 1930s and 1940s, which condensed time and space, conveyed to the viewer a great array of information in short compass, and which offered the possibility of suggesting expanded states of consciousness, chaotic remembrances of past events or dreams, through montage. “To me,” Hughes wrote, “jazz is a montage of a dream deferred. A great big dream—yet to come—and always yet to become ultimately and finally true.”

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