In his transitional poems Le Roi Jones/Amiri Baraka theorizes the connections between African American identity and jazz improvisation. These poems were written and published in the 1960s during Jones/Baraka's decade-long shift away from Beat modernism to Black Arts aesthetics. During this transitional period Jones/Baraka's poetry and jazz criticism described blackness and African American musical culture as products of spontaneous and "continual alteration." Jones/Baraka transitional literary and critical writing emphasize African American identity as improvisational and performative rather than metaphysically essentialist. What is at stake in this reconsidering of Jones/Baraka's transitional moment is that we can learn how the poet merged his personal philosophical changes and political desires into literary aesthetic and intellectual theory. While this reading places Jones/Baraka within the complex picture of modern and postmodern American poetry, the essay also illustrates that this reevaluation will change our relationship to Jones/Baraka's Black Arts poetry.