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Playing Changes

Jazz for the New Century
Narrated by: Ron Butler
Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

One of jazz’s leading critics gives us an invigorating, richly detailed portrait of the artists and events that have shaped the music of our time. Grounded in authority and brimming with style, Playing Changes is the first book to take the measure of this exhilarating moment: It is a compelling argument for the resiliency of the art form and a rejoinder to any claims about its calcification or demise.

“Playing changes”, in jazz parlance, has long referred to an improviser’s resourceful path through a chord progression. Playing Changes boldly expands on the idea, highlighting a host of significant changes - ideological, technological, theoretical, and practical - that jazz musicians have learned to navigate since the turn of the century. Nate Chinen, who has chronicled this evolution firsthand throughout his journalistic career, vividly sets the backdrop, charting the origins of jazz historicism and the rise of an institutional framework for the music.

He traces the influence of commercialized jazz education and reflects on the implications of a globalized jazz ecology. He unpacks the synergies between jazz and postmillennial hip-hop and R&B, illuminating an emergent rhythm signature for the music. And he shows how a new generation of shape-shifting elders, including Wayne Shorter and Henry Threadgill, have moved the aesthetic center of the music. 

Woven throughout the book is a vibrant cast of characters - from the saxophonists Steve Coleman and Kamasi Washington to the pianists Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer to the bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding - who have exerted an important influence on the scene. This is an adaptive new music for a complex new reality, and Playing Changes is the definitive guide.

©2018 Nate Chinen (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Narrator Ron Butler narrates this exceptional audiobook with the laid-back flair and nuanced understanding of a seasoned jazz musician. His diverse phrasing palette is as interesting to hear as it is clarifying, and his performance is never too conspicuous as he conveys the drama surrounding the growth of jazz in America." (AudioFile)

"A terrific book about the shape of contemporary jazz, and right now is a terrific time to read it.” (The Washington Post)

 "A brilliant and wide-ranging new history of jazz.... Chinen’s virtuoso jazz history will drive readers to listen to the music anew, or for the first time." (Publishers Weekly, starred review) 

"Chinen has excellent taste in unruly new sounds and big, bent ears, and you’ll want to make a playlist." (Dwight Garner, The New York Times)

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Jazz happens

Fantastic book surveying the recent history of jazz, and the state of the art today. What I most loved was the beautiful use of language to describe musical pieces, using adjectives through which I could imagine the music being played, even without having a technical understanding of concepts like harmony, chord progressions or the like. Those passages read like the best descriptions of the taste of wine, but using a broader spectrum of words that were accurate, clear and illustrative. I also appreciated how he covered some of the main discussions and arguments about what constitutes jazz, and the controversies regarding artists like Wynton Marsalis or Vijay Iyer. I had heard of these, but feel I know understand them better, as well as those on either side of the debate. The author did a good job of presenting the issues fairly, maintaining respect for the artists on either side of those debates. The structure of the book was superb, with the chapters well chosen, well organized, and adequately broad and detailed. The reading was excellent too, although I didn't always love the accents or acting he sometimes used when reading quotes of, say, a Latino or a woman. Nonetheless, for the most part, the reading was wonderful.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful