Amani Washington explains her artwork for brother Kamasi’s supergroup, Dinner Party

The artist portrays Kamasi and fellow members Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper and 9th Wonder on the album cover, visually referencing the instruments they use and their personal influences.

27 July 2020

Dinner Party is the self-titled debut album from a hip hop/jazz supergroup comprising old friends and collaborators Kamasi Washington, Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper and 9th Wonder (Patrick Denard Douthit) – each critically acclaimed and hugely successful musicians and producers on their own. For its artwork, the group turned to Kamasi’s sister, Amani Washington, herself a visual artist based in LA and a fitting choice given the group’s familial background as well as her jazz-fused aesthetic. Featuring a portrait of each of the four members, the painted cover artwork is packed with references to each of the musicians’ instruments of choice and personal influences, aiming to pay tribute to the individuals and what they bring to the project.

“This album is a collaboration of jazz and hip hop’s most influential producers and musicians of this generation, in my opinion,” Amani tells It’s Nice That, so she felt it was important to emphasise their connections to this music in the cover. “Visually, I wanted to reference each member of the group resembling specific elements and instruments they use during their process of making music in the studio, for example: beat pads, DJ turntables, input cords, saxophones, keyboards, talk boxes, sampled records, percussive drums, etc… I wanted to illustrate in-depth characteristics of the group.”

Producer 9th Wonder wears a towel on his head during his live DJ sets on Instagram, so Amani added a towel and DJ turntable to his portrait, along with symbols of his “gift for sampling records”. Saxophonist and producer Terrace Martin integrates talk box and funk with his sound, which is why there's a “beat pad along with a talkbox tube,” Amani points out.   

“My brother Kamasi is a phenomenal tenor saxophonist who is known for his gift of music, Afrocentric style with an appreciation for art,” Amani explains, hence the African print and gold art frame. Lastly, Robert Glasper is a producer, instrumentalist and keyboardist with “a great sense of humour and a passion for social justice, [so] take notice of the piano, the beat pad, the drum and Black Power symbol.”

More widely, Amani looks to Basquiat, John Banting and Van Gogh for inspiration for her art practice, and more recently (and unexpectedly) John Lautner's retro modernist architectural homes from the 1970s. In her multi-disciplinary work she uses oil, acrylic and paper collage on canvas, overall aiming to “keep the movement of the painting process simple and true to my form. I love to explore my visual ideas by being spontaneous with colour and line”. She describes her choice of subject matter as “always kin to myself and my experience as a Black woman and visual artist”.

The broader concept behind the artwork for Dinner Party was to visualise the table, which Amani says “represents the heartbeat of the group's friendship collaborating towards one goal. The idea of having a dinner party invites conversation about what’s happening in society today. Many have experienced injustice and struggles within our communities. It's important to motivate and educate through our artistic mediums.”

Amani previously worked with her brother on a piece he created for the Whitney Biennial in 2017, wherein her paintings featured in a video piece created by Kamasi titled Harmony of Difference, released afterwards as an EP. She also painted a portrait of Kamasi for a tour poster in 2015, for which their brother Sol Washington did the graphics.

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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