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.
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“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…Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”
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About Nate Chinen
Nate Chinen has been writing about jazz for more than twenty years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for the New York Times and helmed a long-running column for Jazz Times. As the director of editorial content at WBGO, he works with the multiplatform program Jazz Night in America and contributes a range of coverage to NPR music. An eleven-time winner of the Helen Dance—Robert Palmer Award for Excellence in Writing presented by the Jazz Journalists Association, he is also coauthor of Myself among Others: A Life in Music, the autobiography of impresario George Wein.
About Ron Butler
Ron Butler is a Los Angeles–based actor, Earphones Award–winning audiobook narrator, and voice artist with over a hundred film and television credits. Most kids will recognize him from the three seasons he spent on Nickelodeon’s True Jackson, VP. He works regularly as a commercial and animation voice-over artist and has voiced a wide variety of audiobooks. He is a member of the Atlantic Theater Company and an Independent Filmmaker Project Award winner for his work in the HBO film Everyday People.