Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century

by Nate Chinen

Hardcover, 2018

Call number

781.6509 CHI



Pantheon (2018), 288 pages


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 improvisers 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 Spaldingwho 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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member alexabboud
Greatly enjoyed this. It's the perfect book for casual jazz fans like myself, who might be familiar with some of the names in this book, but not with many others. Chinen argues convincingly that the popular opinion of jazz as being a static, almost historic genre of music has never been true, and that we're living in one of the great eras for experimentation and evolution. His list of recommended albums at the end of each chapter, and the essential albums of the 21st century (so far) are a bonus, and a great guide for people looking to learn more about contemporary jazz.… (more)
LibraryThing member jasoncomely
Knock out book. Nate is a world class writer and music critic.
LibraryThing member BooksForDinner
Some good stuff in here. A little too much editorializing by the author for my tastes, thanks. I’ll decide if I think Diana Ross was a disco queen or if a certain musician was competent. Also, not sure how you write a book on the current state of jazz and not even mention Jacob Collier.




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