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"Ask Your Mama" to be Performed at ASU's Polytechnic campus Feb. 3

January 07, 2005

SOURCE: Michael Mader, 480/727-1215,

MESA, Ariz. - As part of the 2005 Arizona State University Martin Luther King Celebration, the university will present The Langston Hughes Project "Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz," a free multimedia performance based on a poetic masterwork by poet/playwright Langston Hughes, at 7 p.m., Feb. 3, at ASU's Polytechnic campus in Mesa.

The Langston Hughes Project is an original work conceived by University of Southern California Professor and Chair of Jazz Studies Dr. Ron McCurdy, and Dr. John S. Wright, Morse-Amoco Distinguished Teaching Professor of Afro-American Studies & African Studies and English at the University of Minnesota.

Wright and the Dr. Ron McCurdy Quartet will perform Hughes' "Ask Your Mama" poem accompanied by a live jazz quartet, and video images of the Harlem Renaissance by African-American artists and photographers, including Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks and Romare Bearden.

The poem "Ask Your Mama" is an 800-line, twelve-part poetic suite written by Hughes in 1961 and recreates his vision of the global struggle for artistic and social freedom during the '60s.

Wright's scholarly exploration of Hughes' original work revealed that Hughes had included musical cues to accompany his poem, intending to work with musical contemporaries on a full production; regrettably, Hughes died in 1967 before a production could be developed.

"I felt that the unrealized work had enormous potential, not only to entertain, but more importantly to introduce modern audiences to the power of Hughes' words and the eloquence of his political discourse," said Wright.

A collaborative effort between Wright and McCurdy expanded on Hughes' original concept, adding images from the Harlem Renaissance gleaned from Wright's work at the Schomberg Research Center in Harlem, and an accompanying jazz suite based on Hughes' original notes, composed and arranged by McCurdy and Eli Bruggeman.

Both professors have presented The Langston Hughes Project in performances and master classes on the college circuit throughout the nation. Information about The Langston Hughes Project is available at:

The Feb. 3 performance is free and open to the public. For information about the location and performance, call (480) 727-1215. To set up radio interviews with the artists, contact Christine Lambrakis at (480) 727-1173.

Biographies of the collaborators follow:

Dr. Ronald C. McCurdy is Chairman of the Jazz Studies Department and Professor of Music in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC) and is Past President of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE). Prior to his appointment at USC he served as Director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC. He has served as Professor of Music and chair of the Afro-African American Studies Department and served as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Minnesota. In 1997, Dr. McCurdy served as Visiting Professor at Maria-Sklodowska- Curie University in Lublin, Poland. In 2001 Dr. McCurdy received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Kansas.

Dr. McCurdy recently released a CD titled, Once Again for the First Time on the INNOVA label and is author of Meet the Great Jazz Legends, published by Alfred Publishing Co. Dr. McCurdy is co-author of a vocal jazz improvisation series titled Approaching the Standards, published by Warner Bros. He is currently touring The Langston Hughes Project, Ask Your Mama: 12 Mood for Jazz. The multimedia presentation features jazz quartet, spoken-word and images from the Harlem Renaissance.

Dr. McCurdy is in demand as a guest clinician, soloist, speaker, director of honor Jazz Ensembles and Choirs throughout the United States and Canada. He has directed All State Jazz Ensembles in New York, Texas, Arizona, Vermont, Nebraska, Ohio, Nevada, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Florida to name a few. Dr. McCurdy received his undergraduate degree from Florida A & M University and his Masters and Ph. D. degrees from the University of Kansas.

Dr. McCurdy is a consultant to the Grammy Foundation educational programs including serving as director of the National Grammy Vocal Jazz Ensemble. He served as Director of the Walt Disney All-American Summer College Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Singers in Orlando, Florida for seven years and continues to serve as a consultant for the college program. A few of the 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. He has served as a member of the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp faculty. Dr. McCurdy is a performing artist for the Yamaha International Corporation.