Rapper and actor Ice-T joins musical director and trumpeter Ron McCurdy and his quartet in a brilliant 21st century realisation of American icon Langston Hughes’ creative masterpiece, the epic twelve-part jazz poem suite Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz. A homage in verse and music to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at the beginning of the 1960s, Ask Your Mama evokes Hughes’ life and times and a message that resonates as strongly today as ever.
Ask Your Mama can be described as the soundtrack of the sixties, showing Langston Hughes at his best: insightful, wise, poignant, funny and soulful with a powerful social commentary.
The two multimedia European premiere concert performances of Ask Your Mama at the Barbican on Sunday 21 November will include:
Spoken word with Ice-T as the narrator
Live music from the Ron McCurdy Quartet – featuring Ron McCurdy (trumpet, flute), Yuma Sung (piano), Mark Hodgson (bass) and Mark Mondesir (drums) – with original music composed by Ron McCurdy based on the music cues suggested by Langston Hughes
A vivid visual backdrop, featuring the works of African American visual artists who Langston Hughes admired or collaborated with most closely over the course of his career, and including African-inspired mural designs and cubist geometries of Aaron Douglas, blues and jazz-inspired collages of Romare Bearden, macabre grotesques of Meta Warrick Fuller, rhythmic sculptural figurines and heads and bas-reliefs of Richmond Barthe and the colour blocked cityscapes and black history series of Palmer Hayden and Jacob Lawrence
Together the words, sounds and images recreate the journey from the Harlem Renaissance through the beat poets and the birth of bebop, to the looming explosion of black performance art in the 1960s – from the blues, gospel and New Orleans to bebop and beyond.
A seminal figure in African-American cultural history and unofficial poet laureate of Harlem, Langston Hughes devised Ask Your Mama in the early 1960s, dedicating the work to Louis Armstrong – “the greatest horn blower of them all,” but it remained unperformed at the time of Hughes’ death in 1967.
Ice-T and Ron McCurdy premiered The Langston Hughes Project, Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz in 2008 and will present the European premiere at the Barbican this November.
Ice-T said: “I am looking forward to performing with Ron McCurdy again and to bringing this project to London audiences for the first time. Langston Hughes’ brilliance and vision is as relevant today as it was in the 1960s.”