"This is Langston Hughes and I am reading from my new book of poems Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz
. In fact, I think one might call the book a single poem because, although it's divided in twelve sections, its thematic unity holds it together, I believe. This poem was written in segments beginning at Newport, at the Newport Jazz Festival in fact, two summers ago. And I suppose that is why, as I wrote most of it, I could hear jazz music behind it. And so when I gave the first reading of some segments of this poem, they were read to jazz. However, the poem may be read with or without music, of course. But for the benefit of those who might like to hear the music that I heard in my mind as I wrote 'Ask Your Mama,' along the margin of the book there are little musical notations. And the leitmotif of the poem, the Hesitation Blues, the old-traditional blues, and the little break that is used between some of the verses, 'Shave And A Haircut, Fifteen Cents,' those are reproduced musically at the front of the book. And then in the back of the book, as if it were a record, I have a series of liner notes for the unhep, that is, for those who may not quite understand what the poem is about."
Reissued on the occasion of the March 16, 2009 world premiere performance of ASK YOUR MAMA, commissioned by Carnegie Hall, music by Laura Karpman, for the HONOR! Festival, curated by Jessye Norman.
Introductions by Professor Arnold Rampersad, Professor Derrick Bell, Laura Karpman, and Jessye Norman.