Notions of Freedom

2007, 15:47 min, color, sound

In Notions of Freedom, Jenkins charts the history of jazz—what he calls “the first true American art form"—from its beginnings in New Orleans and the American South to the classic work of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and through the major innovations of Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, and Miles Davis. Also included are clips of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, explicitly linking the development of jazz to the Civil Rights Movement. Motion-capture animated figures are seen dancing, superimposed, over the archival footage of the musicians. Wearing colorful costumes, they perform Jenkins’ original choreography. The dancers exert a powerful influence over the historical documentation as their movements extend across the decades and, finally, into the future.

Dance: Cheryl Banks-Smith, Ulysses Jenkins. Motion Capture and Animation: Mugen Suzuki. Soundtrack: ”Chief Concern” by Kei Akagi. Performed by: Bobby Rodriguez (trumpet), Charles Owens (saxophone), Jinshi Ozaki (electric guitar), Kei Akagi (keyboards), Chris Colangelo (bass), Jason Harnell (drums), Norm Beede (djembes). Special Thanks to: Lisa Naugle, Dance Department Motion Capture Lab at University of California Irvine; Ross Whitney, Music Department Recording Engineer at University of California Irvine.