• Playing Changes

  • Jazz for the New Century
  • By: Nate Chinen
  • Narrated by: Ron Butler
  • Length: 11 hrs and 39 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (52 ratings)

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Playing Changes  By  cover art

Playing Changes

By: Nate Chinen
Narrated by: Ron Butler
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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)