AUBURN UNIVERSITY – A multimedia concert performance of famed mid-20th century poet Langston Hughes’ kaleidoscopic jazz poem suite titled “Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz,” featuring the Ron McCurdy Quartet and Emmy-nominated actor and director Malcolm-Jamal Warner, will be held at Auburn University on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Foy Hall auditorium.
The event is free to the public, but a ticket is required for admission. Tickets are available at the Multicultural Center in the Auburn University Student Center, room 1330, or at 314 Mary Martin Hall, and can be picked up during the regular business hours of 7:45 a.m.-4:45 p.m. For more information, contact Access and Community Initiatives at (334) 844-5042.
“We are both excited and honored to host this vibrant cultural event as part of Auburn’s commemorating 50 Years of Integration,” said Paulette Dilworth, assistant vice president for access and community initiatives in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. “The performance will link the words and music of Langston Hughes’ poetry to images of the people, places and events described in ‘Ask Your Mama,’ and to works by visual artists Hughes admired or collaborated with as a poet. As a jazz performance, the Langston Hughes Project recovers Hughes’ work with multimedia energy for a new generation.”
The 12-part poem suite combines spoken word, music and video in Hughes’ commentary on the struggle for freedom and equality in the 1960s.
Hughes created “Ask Your Mama” in the aftermath of his participation as an official for the five-day Newport Jazz Festival of July 1960. The musical scoring was designed to serve not as mere background, but to forge a conversation and a commentary with the music. The work was in the planning stages and was left unperformed at the time of Hughes’ death in 1967, but has been brought to life by the Ron McCurdy Quartet.
Ronald McCurdy is a professor of music in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California and a past president of the International Association for Jazz Education. He previously served as director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC, and as a professor of music and chair of the Afro-African American Studies Department and director of jazz studies at the University of Minnesota. In 1997, McCurdy was a visiting professor of music at Maria-Curie Sklodowska University in Lublin, Poland.
McCurdy is a consultant to the Grammy Foundation educational programs, including serving as director of the national Grammy vocal-jazz ensemble and combo. He is the director of the Walt Disney All-American College Band in Anaheim, Calif., and has been affiliated with the Walt Disney Company for more than 20 years. McCurdy is a performing artist for the Yamaha International Corporation.
Malcolm-Jamal Warner is an actor and director who first rose to national prominence starring on the celebrated and long-running classic television series “The Cosby Show.” He has continued to achieve success as an actor and also has received accolades as a poet and a bass player. Warner, along with his jazz-funk band Miles Long, has performed in jazz festivals including the Playboy Jazz Festival, and has opened for such high-profile acts as Earl Klugh and the late Luther Vandross. He recently appeared at the historic Apollo Theater.
He made his feature-film debut in “Drop Zone” and can be seen in the comedy adventure “Fool’s Gold.” Warner also co-starred in the independent films “Restaurant” with Adrien Brody, “A Fare to Remember” and “The List” with Wayne Brady.
On stage, Warner has starred in the off-Broadway play “Three Ways Home”; Cryin’ Shame,” for which he received the NAACP Theater Award for Best Supporting Actor; “Freefall” at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago; and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the La Jolla Playhouse. Most recently, he received critical acclaim for the West Coast debut of his one-man theatrical production “Love and Other Social Issues.”
A seasoned director, Warner was one of the regular directors on the comedy series “Malcolm & Eddie” and directed several episodes of “The Cosby Show,” “All That,” “Kenan & Kel” and a host of music videos. His short film, “This Old Man,” received critical acclaim on the festival circuit. Additional directing credits include “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Sesame Street” and the AIDS-awareness video “Timeout.”
For four seasons Warner was heard as the voice of the producer on PBS’ “The Magic School Bus.” Currently, he can be heard on the audio-book version of “The Marvelous Effect” and Bill Cosby’s “Fatherhood.” Born in Jersey City, Warner currently lives in Los Angeles.
The event is part of Auburn’s yearlong celebration of 50 Years of Integration and is sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, University Outreach and the Office of Alumni Affairs.