Hughes in many forms

Jessica Cole

Multimedia artist shares late black poet’s work with Kent State community

Ron McCurdy of the Ron McCurdy Quartet gave his passionate rendition of Langston Hughes’ “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz” to a packed house last night in the Ballroom atop the Student Center. DANIEL DOHERTY | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

His trumpet wailed and the audience flinched. Who expects a performer to start in the back of the room?

Ron McCurdy of the Ron McCurdy Quartet caught audience members by surprise last night when his trumpet echoed through the Ballroom at the Langston Hughes Project “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz” presentation, presented by the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music in partnership with the College of the Arts and the Wick Poetry Center.

McCurdy made his way to the stage, stopping at the front of the audience to playfully blow his trumpet in the faces of the unsuspecting crowd.

The audience laughed along as he seemingly struggled to force the smallest notes from his trumpet.

“Are you ready for some Langston Hughes?” McCurdy said when he finally reached the stage. The audience roared in anticipation.

“Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz” is a book of poetry written in 12 parts by Langston Hughes in the early 1960s.

The Langston Hughes Project is a program that the Ron McCurdy Quartet performs all over the country. Hughes wrote music in the margins to go along with his poems, and the Ron McCurdey Quartet combines that music with images projected on a big screen to help bring Hughes’ poetry to life.

“I love the integration of the music, and the times and the emotion,” said Michael Agnello, sophomore history and classics major.

McCurdy read Hughes’ poetry while the other members of the quartet provided him with background music, and images appeared behind him. The images ranged from the moon, to trains, to water. Many famous black figures from the past also appeared on the screen, such as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

After each poem, McCurdy would join his quartet and resume his masterful trumpet playing for a few minutes, and then return to his post at the lectern to read another poem.

“It’s interesting to see the dynamics of the video and the emotion of the speaker and how that all flows together with the music,” said Josh Goran, sophomore visual communications design major.

The event drew in a diverse audience. Professors, Kent State students, students from other schools in the area as well as members of the Kent community filled the Ballroom.

“I like that he (McCurdy) took the notation from the book of poetry and sang what was supposed to be sang,” sophomore music major Katie Stahley said.

Chas Baker, director of the jazz department in the school of music, said the members of the quartet were “learned” musicians and their performance was excellent.

“It’s so well integrated,” he said. “It’s kind of seemless.”

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Jessica Cole at [email protected].