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Langston Hughes Music

The Langston Hughes Project

This traveling show is a multi-media interpretation of Hughes's epic jazz poem Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz. According to the project, Hughes's score for the poem drew upon "blues and Dixieland, gospel songs, boogie woogie, bebop and progressive jazz, Latin 'cha cha' and Afro-Cuban mambo music, German lieder, Jewish liturgy, West Indian calypso, and African drumming." It was never performed during his lifetime, but you can see it onstage now.

Louis Armstrong

Hughes dedicated his epic poem Ask Your Mama to "Louis Armstrong, the greatest horn blower of them all." We're not going to argue with his judgment. Armstrong was—is—a jazz legend, and his soulful trumpet notes can't be matched.

Duke Ellington

This jazz icon was a fellow fixture of the Harlem Renaissance. Ellington grew up in Washington, D.C., the city where Hughes was discovered as a poet. Ellington also lived in New York City, where he is now buried.

Marian Anderson

Singer Marian Anderson was as famous for her gorgeous contralto voice as for her courage. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow the African-American singer to perform before an integrated audience at Constitution Hall. A political uproar ensued, resulting in Anderson's famous concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. To honor her, Hughes wrote the 1954 biography Marian Anderson: Famous Concert Singer.

Dizzy Gillespie

This trumpet artist came of age in Europe and New York, along with fellow legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Thelonious Monk. He's also famous as the guy whose cheeks puff out like a blowfish as he plays, a distention of his cheek muscles that is officially known in the medical community as "Gillespie Pouches."

Cab Calloway

This entertainer was a fixture on the Harlem nightclub scene and even in clubs where blacks were not permitted as patrons. He roused the crowds with his singing voice and trademark "Hi de ho!" We're pretty sure Langston Hughes caught Calloway's shows at least a few times at places like the Savoy Ballroom and the Renaissance Ballroom.

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