This week on Riverwalk Jazz, the late theater legend William Warfield joins The Jim Cullum
Jazz Band in an encore presentation, combining Mr. Warfield's masterful readings of Langston Hughes' poems with musical selections by Duke Ellington
and James P. Johnson
The hour-long radio show is distrubuted across the US by Public Radio International and worldwide on Sirius/XM sattelite radio, as well as streamed on-demand via the Riverwalk Jazz website.
Langston Hughes has been called the Poet Laureate of black America," but his work reaches beyond the boundaries of race. Inspired by the rhythm and romance of jazz of 1920s New York, Hughes introduced the language of jazz into his poems and changed the sound of modern poetry.
Hughes came to Manhattan to study engineering at Columbia University, but dropped out to pursue his writing. He published his first poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers" in 1921.
William Warfield is best known for his role of Joe the Dock Hand in the 1951 movie version of Show Boat
in which he sang Old Man River." He also played the title role in a Broadway production of Porgy and Bess,
and recorded Aaron Copland's settings of American folk songs.
On the Riverwalk Jazz series, Mr. Warfield frequently portrayed classic jazz figures including King Oliver
and W.C. Handy
. He brought to life theatrical works such as Show Boat
and Porgy and Bess
with his powerful narrations. Warfield was a frequent collaborator with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band on tour, known for their popular live concert presentations of Porgy and Bess.