If classical, jazz and spoken word had a love child, it’d sound like: Black Thought of The Roots orating as an omniscient Langston Hughes, ?uestlove adding banging beats in the background and the harmonies of opera singer Jessye Norman, vocalist Tracie Luck and jazz crooner de’Adre Aziza singing the spirit of the Renaissance back from the dead.
On Monday, I got to experience every music and literary lover’s dream come true, when I attended Ask Your Mama, a concert presentation at Carnegie Hall based on the Langston Hughes text Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods For Jazz. After the show, while overhearing (read: eavesdropping) other people’s opinions of the production, some thought that it was good but it wasn’t “Hughes”. But for me, it was a sensory high that only comes around every few years like an eclipsed sun. For me, it was the multimedia experience that I never thought I’d see at Carnegie Hall—hip hop artist Black Thought and actress/singer de’Adre seated at the right hand for our father Hughes, and herald opera singer Jessye Norman and soprano Tracie Luck on the other end, backed by a full orchestra (music by Laura Karpman) that included ?uestlove. Meanwhile, video reels played during the show, highlighting noteworthy African American entertainers, to assist in re-telling the story of 12 Moods For Jazz, a work the poet began in 1961 after attending the Newport Jazz Festival. So for me, it was—dare I say— great.
And although I was seated so far up in the balcony Black Thought looked like a dapperly dressed pixel grooving along with the ensemble, there was no mistaking the lyricists’ commanding presence and pride in reading Hughes’ work to an audience of every creed, color and context. There was something truly special happening in that moment. Langston would be proud. Aren’t you?
If you attended the event, leave a comment and tell us what you thought. And if you haven’t had the pleasure of participating in any of the HONOR! series events, curated by Jessye Norman (This March only, at Carnegie Hall) get more information here.
Also, find out more about Ask Your Mama here.
*Photo Credit: © Steve J. Sherman 2009