Mixing criticism and memoir, “Artists in Residence” offers a rumination on improvisation and collaboration in visual art‐making and contemporary jazz performance. The author meditates on the 2017 Unite the Right rally and Ryan Kelly's award‐winning photographs of the event and considers how artists offer models for resisting anti‐Black racism and white supremacy through collaborative practices. The author analyzes the documentary films Looks of a Lot and RFK in the Land of Apartheid and reviews exhibitions by Roy DeCarava and Jason Moran, highlighting the points of intersection between jazz musicianship and visual artistry. Finally, the essay argues that artists like Kara Walker, William Kentridge, and Yusef Komunyakaa create works that express the pleasure and pain of Black Diasporic experience through practices such as blues idiom improvisation and collage. The author presents criticism as a mode of personal writing.
Though both my parents were born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I have visited the African continent only twice. The first time was on a family trip to Cameroon in 1990, the summer I turned eighteen. The second came twenty-seven years later, August 2017, when I visited South Africa to attend the annual Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes conference. It was there, in the Castle of Good Hope, host site for the conference, listening to the South African visual artist William Kentridge deliver his lecture about improvisation and seventeenth-century art-making, “If the Good Doctor . . . A Defense of the Less Good Idea,” that my phone vibrated with the news from Charlottesville, Virginia, about the Unite the Right rally.
I've never been enveloped in so many ironies at once. There I was, in the former land of Apartheid, sitting in Cape Town's colonial Dutch slave trading fort–cum–convention center, surrounded by artists and scholars from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States, scrolling through the initial news photos, including Ryan Kelly's images for the Daily Progress, the paper in Charlottesville—home of Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia, where my Congolese father attended undergraduate summer sessions in the early 1960s when very few Black American students could even enroll on campus and where, thirty years after him, I studied literature, folklore, and pragmatism—of Unite the Right marchers clashing with anti-racist counterprotesters attempting to stem yet another virulent outbreak of the United States’ natal disease: white supremacy.1
While my phone blew up with Twitter alters, Kentridge presented a video depicting various versions of himself. There was an artist-Kentridge at work in his studio, dressed in white oxford button-down shirt and black jeans, cutting fragments and pinning them collage-like onto a wall. Next came a secondary-Kentridge, similarly dressed, gazing, frowning, head-shaking, admonishing, pointing, provoking, suggesting, chiding, and critiquing the artist-Kentridge to the point of interference, if not abuse. The scene closes with the now perturbed artist-Kentridge dispatching his other self in order to advance and accomplish the piece.
We laughed, the gathered institute directors, artists, and scholars, recognizing in Kentridge's video comedic elements of our own battles with our secondary and tertiary selves—our conflicting internal multitudes—in our efforts to make art objects or literary texts, to produce exhibitions or colloquiums, or, simply, to fashion clear philosophical thoughts. Kentridge and his video elaborated a subtle point about thinking, writing, drawing, collaging, and collaborating: the agon among our various selves in the action of artistic creation likely spurs self-analysis. Before we can collaborate artistically with other individuals, we've got to encourage our various, conflicted selves—artistic and critical—into collaboration. It's possible that the process of attuning these selves and the physics of improvisation mirror each other. Both are, in fact, practices of freedom—political, physical, aesthetic, and existential.
On my first trip to Africa, I was in Douala, Cameroon, for fourteen days before returning to the United States to start my university studies. My brothers and parents remained for four months while my father completed a research project. Managing my first college term on my own, without family nearby, helped inflate my sense of self-sufficiency. Beginning then, and throughout the ensuing ten years in my successive roles as undergraduate student, apprentice scholar, university instructor, and beginning writer, I believed that with diligence and focus, I could succeed individually while laboring usefully in the struggle against white supremacy and American apartheid.
That's not exactly how it went. Instead, since this century's opening, I learned several truths in a disparate series of revelatory instances, such as those moments between the rippling audience laughter and my phone's buzzing announcements, exposing the lie central to my youthful, willed belief in the withering away of anti-Black racism and white supremacy. Even before Kentridge's talk, I knew from my own self-interrogations that the Black “freedoms” gained in South Africa, across the African continent, or in the Western Hemisphere were not simply hard-won; they often emerged incrementally, at a snail's pace, at enormous expense, encumbered with great debt, and with opposition forces aligned to challenge, limit, or thwart self-determined Black liberation at every turn. As Kentridge continued, I had to decide whether to watch the unfolding events in Charlottesville or remain attentive to the artist unfolding the complexities of collaborative artistic improvisation.
As I stewed in this malaise, Jason Moran's composition “RFK in the Land of Apartheid” came out from my mind's recesses and into my internal ear. Moran originally penned the tune as a movement in the soundtrack for RFK in the Land of Apartheid (2009), a documentary film about Robert Kennedy's 1966 trip to South Africa. Senator Kennedy's South Africa tour, including his keynote address to the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), was an argument for recognizing Africa as the “ripple of hope” urging the world toward ever-greater human liberty.
Speaking before an audience in Cape Town, Kennedy hoped his remarks might merge the African American civil rights movement with NUSAS's anti-apartheid goals: “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”2 Moran's composition mirrors Kennedy's rippling waves musically: the sweeping charge emerges from the intersection of their individual sonic currents. When Moran plays piano alongside his trio mates, Taurus Mateen (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums), they form the Bandwagon. Performing Moran's score for the documentary soundtrack, the Bandwagon plays in the mood and tempo of Kennedy's sober intonation and burbling cadences.
But on their album Ten (2010), the Bandwagon revises their earlier take on the number, turning away from Kennedy's impulses toward blues idiom ethics. One might hear on the Bandwagon's recording Moran hinting toward Abdullah Ibrahim's kinesthetic keyboard play with both the Dollar Brand Trio and the Jazz Epistles while the Mateen-Waits rhythm section intimates the low-end ostinato and percussive undergirding of “Tears for Johannesburg” from Abby Lincoln and Max Roach's album We Insist: The Freedom Now Suite (1960).
Listen as Mateen, working in 6/4 time, opens with a stuttering ostinato on bass. Waits enters in the middle of that first measure, affirming the rhythm on tom-tom, counterpointing the bassline, and dancing around the time with sixteenth note cymbal dashes. In the third measure, Moran speaks up, emphasizing the downbeats with chunky chords that encircle Mateen's whole tones. And in the next measure, Moran mirrors Mateen's pattern, using it to launch his marabi- inflected melody at the top of the fifth bar. What he plunks out, seemingly with one finger, Thelonious Monk–like, is what we might call a kind of Zulu blues.
On Ten, we hear the Bandwagon versioning3 and storying4 their own number: the rhythm section iterates its patterns with compounding force, the ensemble raises the contextual narrative stakes after each repetition of (and each ringing deviation from) the melodic statement, and the pianist speeds his tempo deliberately mid-track, prying open a break where he improvises ferociously, whipping the ripple into a swollen river breaching its banks. On the album performance of “RFK in the Land of Apartheid,” the trio says something about Pan-African liberation sometimes beginning with measured appeal. However, the most direct route to self-determined independent nationhood, free personhood, or full citizenship is through agon: that is, clamorous dispute, dogged physical battling, painful psychological struggle, and, possibly, in the end, the pronouncement of small victories arising from sustained, rhythmic, joyful drive.
Perhaps Moran and the Bandwagon came to me in Cape Town because during the many live performances I've attended and recordings of theirs I've listened to, they've always re-created, thus extended, the experimental Black musical tradition. Their extensions can “effectuate the recovery of history itself.”5 Returning to Kentridge may be helpful for understanding what such a recovery might look or sound like. In a 2019 interview, discussing his performance piece The Head & the Load, Kentridge argues for understanding “history as a collage, rather than as a single narrative.”6 “RFK in the Land of Apartheid” pushed me to address my warring selves—artist and critic—in order to draw them into collaboration. Thinking through Romare Bearden's oeuvre, Robert O'Meally versions: “We are the collage people: individuals and communities with big hands and big hearts, scarred and battered but reassembled and layered. We are drawn together.”7
One month after returning to the United States from Cape Town, I traveled to New York City and visited Sikkema Jenkins and Co. to see a spread of new works by Kara Walker: Sikkema Jenkins and Co. Is Compelled to Present/The Most Astounding and Important Painting Show of the Fall Art Show Viewing Season.8 The exhibition centered on three large works—Slaughter of the Innocents (They Might Be Guilty of Something), 2017; The Pool Party of Sardanapalus (after Delacroix and Kienholz), 2017; and Christ's Entry into Journalism, 2017 (fig. 2). In Walker's huge, rhapsodically confrontational collages, I found versions of my Cape Town moment. While all three works spring from her precise hand, keen historical intelligence, and satirical, sardonic, murderous wit, Walker's Christ's Entry into Journalism, 2017, a collage on paper, captures the layered, historical swirl conjoining the Castle of Good Hope with UVA's slave-made academic village. Drawn in Sumi ink on white paper cut rectangularly (140 by 196 inches), Christ's Entry into Journalism presents a spray of bodies enacting a history of the United States born from manic violence and brutal sexuality.9
Interestingly, the Unite the Right rally and the Charlottesville counterprotest against white supremacy occurred only three weeks before Walker's show opened. Walker's Christ's Entry and Kelly's Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph form a striking pas de deux about the maddening, chaotic, deadly unrest in Charlottesville and that scene's encapsulation and unsettling repetition of US history. Though the painter likely saw reported accounts that featured Kelly's photos in print, online, and on television, because of the timing of the exhibition, it's unclear if Walker purposefully rendered her collage to be in conversation with the photographer's images. Likely the dynamic between Walker's collage and Kelly's photo has more to do with their abilities to capture in their mediums—simultaneously and coincidentally—similar truths about the cultural zeitgeist: it's best rendered as a collage of the country's violent history of white rage.
While Walker and Kelly seem to converse coincidentally, Walker and Moran have been frequent actual collaborators. Walker was a featured performer in Moran's week-long, ever-shifting, interdisciplinary exhibition BLEED (Whitney Biennial, 2012). When Walker installed and premiered her musical sculpture Katastwóf Karavan (2018), a steam-powered calliope housed in a parade wagon, at Algiers Point in New Orleans, Moran performed on the instrument.10 Moran also offered a performance on the calliope as an extension of JASON MORAN (Whitney Museum of American Art, September 20, 2019–January 5, 2020), the landmark exhibition drawing together his visual works on paper, handwritten and printed musical compositions, segments of his exhibitions BLEED and STAGED (Venice Biennale, 2015), and samples of his numerous collaborations with artists like Joan Jonas, Glenn Ligon, Stan Douglas, and Lorna Simpson.
In its arrangement, JASON MORAN exhibited the pianist's history of multidisciplinary, collaborative output as a collage. Wandering through that show reminded me of the Bandwagon's 2006 album, Artist in Residence. On two tracks, like a turntablist, Moran sampled Adrian Piper's voice, establishing melodic and percussive patterns based on her vocal undulations. On “Artists Ought to Be Writing,” a piece for solo piano, Moran opens with an arpeggiated chord, clearing space for the artist/philosopher's statement:
Artists ought to be writing about what they do, and what kinds of procedures they go through to realize a work, what their presuppositions in making the work are, and related things. If artists’ intentions and ideas were more accessible to the general public I think it might break down some of the barriers of misunderstanding between the art world and artists and the general public. I think it would become clear the extent to which artists are just as much a product of their society as anyone else, as in any other kinds of vocation.11
Comping12 alongside the sample, as though in duet, he uses understated flourishes to signal chord changes. Soon, however, having fashioned on the keyboard notational semblance for Piper's intellectual and vocal intonations, Moran slides from sideman to central musician and crafts the main musical statement.
I understood JASON MORAN as a kind of Piper-esque explanatory event: the sideman who comped behind many different artists has arranged excerpts from those various collaborations in a manner that breaks down the barriers among improvisational music; performance art; painting; documentary, feature, and art filmmaking; dance; and photography. Moran's nimble, expansive musicality slides from the side to the center of a layered, ecstatic collage.
For six weeks during its run, JASON MORAN ran concurrently with Roy DeCarava's the sound i saw (David Zwirner Gallery, September 5–October 26, 2019). To my eyes and ears, the two shows were in contrapuntal discourse. While the Zwirner gallerists hung DeCarava's quintessential black and white photographs of African American improvising musicians and jazz performance settings in white frames against bright, white gallery walls with stark, midday-like lighting, the Whitney curatorial team situated visitors within square and rectangular spaces with low, honey-toned lighting. Physically and atmospherically, the lobby before the main gallery and main gallery itself of JASON MORAN, with their walls painted dark charcoal gray (a color that seemed to reference the silky gradations of gray-black scale in DeCarava's photographs), contextualized the large set pieces of STAGED (gorgeous facsimiles of the jazz club stages at the Three Deuces, the Savoy Ballroom, and Slug's Saloon) triangulated in the room (fig. 3).13 The main room also reminded me of Barbès, the Village Vanguard, and the Jazz Standard, New York City clubs where I'd seen the Bandwagon hit several times.
Though they were still and inaudible, except in the imaginary, DeCarava's photos remained visually engrossing. On the other hand, Moran's array of art objects literally sang and were in motion: high-end audio speakers were dispersed throughout the gallery for cross-channel sound, a programmed Steinway player piano rolled through some segments of Moran's compositions, video screens displayed rotated sets of clips and stills from various collaborative events, and Stan Douglas's film, the lush, funky Luanda-Kinshasa (2013), was screened in a small black box adjacent to the exhibition's primary gallery.14
In “Committed to the Image,” his afterword to the new edition of the book the sound i saw (2019), Radiclani Clytus argues that DeCarava's photographs “inform us of the power of ‘black’ images to grapple with the human condition and find solace in the fact that we are neither alone nor relegated to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.”15 In his film Looks of a Lot (2014), a documentary about the collaboration among Jason Moran and the Bandwagon and the Chicago-based artists Theaster Gates (multigenre artist), Katie Ernst (bassist/singer), Ken Vandermark (avant-garde saxophonist), and the Kenwood Academy High School Jazz Band (under the direction of Gerald Powell and Bethany Pickens), Clytus actualizes his interpretation of DeCarava's art through his own motion picture aesthetic (video 1). Visitors to JASON MORAN could view a brief clip from this documentary cycling among those images and clips screening on the video displays.
In the film's prologue, Clytus captures Moran explaining his compositional aesthetic. Shot in Moran's home practice space, the scene unfolds with the pianist moving a turntable tonearm, shifting the stylus to different tracks on an LP, in search of the musical sequence that will help him express his theory. Picking up a nearby skateboard deck, Moran traces its shape with his forefinger, describing the physical revolution of a melodic cycle and creating a visual equivalent for blues-idiom music's formal operation.
Naming and identifying the context, Moran uses the skateboard, kicktail to nose, to give us the impression of brackets or parentheses. Moran's framing allows viewers to see and hear where the space for embellishment arrives:
If this is the form of the song, right, and we start, let's say we start where the foot is [points to bolt hole near the kicktail], and we follow the arc all the way around, right, and we about to get back to the foot, to the top, and go around the second revolution, right around here [Moran works his right index finger along the curved edge of the deck's kicktail] is always so interesting, and we call this the turnaround. And you can hear, most genius is defined right there. I want to focus just on the turnaround. . . . It's like all the most flavorful garnishes you would have on a really fine meal; you got rid of all the entreé and kept all the garnish.16
When the break in the form appears, the space for improvisation opens. Taking in Whistlin’ Alex Moore's “This May Not Be My Toes,” Moran listens for the most fascinating instrumental embellishment, one that he might interpolate or sample in order to improvise a new composition from Moore's own improvised turnaround.17
Moran's illustration reminds me of the way Romare Bearden used rectangular forms in his art. “Now, if I'm doing a collage,” Bearden explained to Henri Ghent, “after I put down these rectangles I might paste a photograph, say, anything just to get me started, maybe a head, at certain—a few—places in the canvas that I've started.”18 Employing tilted rectangles, Bearden sought to free himself from “complete abstraction or absolute formal purity” while remaining in league with both the classical manner of the “great Benin heads” and the traditional “exponents of flat painting.” Incorporating techniques from still photography and documentary film, Bearden “invokes the onlooker” into a transformed reality, into “an intense aesthetic statement.”19 Clytus documents the process leading to the stage production and captures portions of the actual performance. His filmic narration presents both the documentary effort and the embedded rendition of the live performance as intense aesthetic statements. We might read Moran's skateboard demonstration as a synecdoche for the film itself. Clytus's visualization springs from Moran's model: the filmmaker identifies the turnaround and improvises his visual narrative from it.
When I saw JASON MORAN and the sound i saw, twenty-six months had passed since my time in Cape Town, and I'd had very little success pushing my experience beyond anecdote toward a collage of feeling, theory, and critique. The previous version of this essay never became more than a series of tilted rectangles. Nonetheless the action of placing those building blocks drew forth another memory of the Bandwagon: the late winter night in 2015 when I watched the trio in performance with the poets Elizabeth Alexander and Yusef Komunyakaa (fig. 4).20 That evening the poets took turns “leading” the band, each one syncopating line breaks around the musical statements, measure for measure.
When Komunyakaa read “Rhythm Method,” Moran, Waits, and Mateen vamped a version of “RFK in the Land of Apartheid” low and lean behind him. As though born together, verse and music merged, an instance of consecration and blues lineation. As Komunyakaa closed his poem, his images rising to life, the Bandwagon, led by Mateen's pimp-limping bassline, burbled up, emphasizing the heartbeat:
The sound of this Bandwagon/Komunyakaa collaboration is likely the version of “RFK in the Land of Apartheid” that I “rememoried” while sitting in the Castle of Good Hope. That tune, layered against “Rhythm Method,” was not only battle ready, it was also exuberantly procreative, life-affirming.
In her essay “A-Legba Poetics: Reading Komunyakaa,” Aracelis Girmay explains that the inherent musicality of Komunyakaa's poetry rises from his improvised formal designs. Whether one is reading his poems or listening to him recite them, Girmay continues, audiences are likely drawn to Komunyakaa's art because of his “use of breath and the catalogue,” enjambment and contingency, to limn potential paths toward liberation, both bodily and literary.22 In “Rhythm Method” Komunyakaa has enjambed the poem's images dependently, as in a collage, overlapping and entangling them carnally, “Up / & down, in & out.”
Komunyakaa's carnal catalog brings Walker to mind again. As Girmay points out, Komunyakaa's poetry draws readers into liminal spaces, breaks where readers imagine, improvise, and practice freedom. Etymologically, freedom comes into Old English and Dutch from the “Indo-European root ‘pri’—which is ‘to love.’ ” Among the wonders of Walker's collage is her illustration of American mutuality: love and life emerging from injustice and hatred; humor and fraternity shielding the righteous and holding the wicked at bay. Walker realizes visually something akin to Komunyuakaa's poetic truth: We are made up of each other. The poet and the artist offer readers and viewers ways of imagining and recognizing ourselves as continuous states of becoming, as endlessly unfurling, which frees us “into new seeing and, thusly, new ways of loving the world.”23
The Bandwagon/Komunyakaa quartet's musical collage came to me while considering Kelly's photos and Kentridge's ethic of improvisation. My mind overwrote Kennedy's humanist argument with Komunyakaa's procreative Black poetics. I was, in effect, layering my artist-self atop of my critic-self. I don't think that revision erased or evaded criticism. Rather, just as Kentridge must have done, I accepted, if you will, my critical self's notes but then dispatched him in order to write these sentences. Though I may have begun shaping this narrative in those moments between Kelly and Kentridge, I could not have found its form without entering a kind of collaboration with Walker's Christ's Entry. Walker's collage is a visual equivalent for that moment between vibration and laughter; it's the music that Moran elicits from her Karavan calliope, for “it holds / joy, but grows to measure / the rhythm of loneliness” (fig. 5).
Joy and loneliness are the basic elements of my tragicomic African/American experience. The loneliness is born of feeling always alienated, homeless, and liminal. The joyfulness arises from remaking myself or imagining alternative futures through the global art of Black life and art about global Black life. On August 12, 2017, as I looked at pictures of a group of ignoble compatriots regurgitating the lowest of American attitudes while sitting in a colonial fortress that is surely haunted by the spirits of Africans who were (not so long ago) kidnapped from the continent in order to cultivate, harvest, plumb, mine, design, frame, and build Cape Town, the New World and its wealth, just as my feelings of alienation were about to coolly constrict my airways, what came to mind and, joyfully, thankfully, eased my breathing were Walker's cutouts, Kentridge's collages, Komunyakaa's poetry, and the Bandwagon's sound. They speak of my pains and my pleasures, and this attempt before you now has been improvised from both.
In the early 1960s, the number of Black American undergraduate students at Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia hovered around twenty-five. The photojournalist Ryan Kelly covered the Unite the Right rally for the Charlottesville Daily Progress. His photographs were among the first to stream across national and international media services. Kelly's photos, specifically his picture of James Fields plowing his speeding car into a crowd of peaceful anti-racist protesters at Fourth Street NE on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, earned him a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2018.
In his explanation of versioning, Hebdige writes, “sometimes a reggae record is released and literally hundreds of different versions of the same rhythm or melody will follow in its wake. Every time a version is released, the original tune will be slightly modified. A musician will play a different solo on a different instrument, use a different tempo, key or chord sequence. A singer will place the emphasis on different words or will add new ones. A record producer will use a different arrangement. An engineer will stretch the sounds into different shapes, add sound effects, take out notes and chords or add new ones, creating empty spaces by shuffling the sequence of sounds into new patterns.” Though Hebdige introduces this term in his study of reggae, he also points out that versioning is central to “all Afro-American and Caribbean musics: jazz, blues, rap, r&b, reggae, calypso, soca, salsa, Afro-Cuban and so on.” Hebdige, Cut ‘n‘ Mix, xiii–xiv.
Kevin Young explains storying this way: “To me, then, storying is both a tradition and a form; it is what links artfulness as diverse as a solo by Louis Armstrong—which, as any jazzhead will tell you, brilliantly tells a story—with any of the number of stories (or tall tales or ‘lies’ or literature) black folks tell among and about themselves.” Young, Grey Album, 12.
Among other things, the collage contains African heads, a head on a platter, a lynching, a shooting, a maiming, a trapeze artist, (possibly) James Brown, a KKK grand wizard, a police officer in riot gear, masturbating overseers, a protester with a Black Power fist raised high, a skinhead figure goose-stepping and giving a Nazi salute while carrying the Confederate flag, and, in the two opposing lower corners of the collage, Frederick Douglass (left) and Martin Luther King (right) looking on.
Moran and Walker performed together on October 12, 2019, at the Whitney Museum of American Art. See also their discussion about the 2018 installation of the calliope in Walker and Moran, “Sending out a Signal.”
Quoted in Chinen, Playing Changes, 115. Moran samples and splices Piper's remarks from a documentary film called Other Than Art's Sake 1973–74.
Comp: to provide a chordal accompaniment for a soloist; the word derives from “accompany” (or perhaps “complement”). Pianists, in particular, are said to comp when they improvise a rhythmically varied but essentially nonmelodic chordal backing. Witmer, “Comp.”
Cole, Known and Strange Things, 150. In his essay “A True Picture of Black Skin,” Cole notes astutely that DeCarava photographed Black subjects in a manner (one that the contemporary cinematographer Bradford Young has adapted for motion pictures) that visually enlivens Éduoard Glissant's theorization of opacity: “The adjectives that trail [DeCarava's and Young's] works as well as the philosophy of Glissant—opaque, dark, shadowed, obscure—are metaphorical when we apply them to language. But in photography, they are literal, and only after they are seen as physical facts do they become metaphorical again, visual stories about the hard-won, worth-keeping reticence of black life itself.”
Luanda-Kinshasa presents a musical ensemble (Jason Moran, Kahlil Kwame Bell, Liberty Ellman, Jason Lindner, Abdou Mboup, Nitin Mitta, Antoine Roney, Marvin Sewell, Kimberly Thompson, and Burniss Earl Travis) in a recording studio improvising electrified, Pan-African funk. Douglas's set design references “The Church,” the famed former Columbia Records Studio B on East Thirtieth in New York City. Douglas captured an extended jam session and made a six-hour film that alludes to Miles Davis's early-1970s recordings, especially the improvised, electrified, funk-shaped albums On the Corner (1972), In Concert (1973), and Get Up with It (1974). In his liner notes for the vinyl LP Luanda-Kinshasa (2016), Diedrich Diederichsen argues that Douglas's title points toward Davis's interest in the mytho-utopian ideals of a decolonized, independent Africa and self-determined, liberated Black life. Moran constructed the ensemble at Douglas's behest, and though he is the de facto group leader, the director refused to center the camera's gaze on the keyboardist. Instead Douglas emphasizes the group's “democratic” collaboration. Diederichsen notes that Douglas's film has the “texture of fashion, politics, electricity, and postcoloniality” one might have felt in the Angolan and Zairian capitals in 1972. Diederichsen and Douglas, “Eye of the Trumpet.”
Clytus, “Committed to the Image.” Clytus's claim seems somewhat indebted to Teju Cole's impression that the bright life of Blackness exhibited in DeCarava's pictures “make a case for how indirect images guarantee our sense of the human” (Cole, Known and Strange Things, 151).
Clytus, Looks of a Lot. The text of Moran's description comes from my own transcription of the scene.
In the film, Moran then moves to his piano, replicates Moore's embellishment, and demonstrates how he expanded that turnaround into a new tune. With a beautiful match cut, Clytus shifts viewers from Moran's hands at play on his practice piano to the pianist and the Bandwagon in Chicago during the stage premiere of Looks of a Lot performing the number “Turnaround.”
The Bandwagon performed with Alexander and Komunyakaa at the Village Vanguard on March 11, 2015. I saw the band perform on that evening during the second set and took copious notes in order to ensure accurate description in future writing projects.