You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century
Time to rethink jazz
Reviewed by Michael Toland, Fri., Dec. 21, 2018
When we talk about jazz, we generally contextualize a tradition that encompasses specific ways of harmonizing, improvising, and swinging – musical facets preserved and revered, maybe advanced, but never altered. In Playing Changes, Nate Chinen argues for moving past that approach. The WBGO content director/former jazz writer for The New York Times, Village Voice, and NPR uses solid research, copious interviews, and an accessible writing style to highlight a generation of musicians respectful of, but beyond, tradition. Maverick pianists Jason Moran, Brad Mehldau, and Vijay Iyer, guitarist Mary Halvorson, trumpeter Dave Douglas, saxophonists Steve Coleman and Kamasi Washington, and producer Flying Lotus see jazz not as a fixed point but as a living entity, morphing into new and exciting forms. Important chapters on the history of formal jazz education, the dual rise of Wynton Marsalis' conservative traditionalism and the downtown NYC avant-garde scene of John Zorn, and jazz's international reach means leaving out some of today's iconoclasts, like Bill Frisell. The book ends with a comprehensive list of notable albums from every year of the new century, which will prove handy on your next trip to the record store.
Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Centuryby Nate Chinen
Pantheon, 288 pp., $27.95