Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century

Nate Chinen. Pantheon, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-1018-7034-1
Former New York Times jazz critic Chinen charts a brilliant and wide-ranging new history of jazz. Tracing the evolution of the genre over the past 50 years, he demonstrates that no strict definition of jazz exists; it’s a volatile and generative music without fixed boundaries or rules. Chinen demonstrates the creative multiplicity of jazz by profiling diverse jazz artists and their contributions to and permutations of the art form. Saxophonist Kamasi Washington, for example, on his most recent album, The Epic, “crashes through an Afrocentric range of styles: surging hard-bop, steroidal jazz-funk, viscous soul.” Chinen explains how pianist Vishay Iyer focuses on a body-based way of playing piano, contending that the rhythmic domains of music are the same that our bodies use—breathing, walking, talking; bandleader and saxophonist Wayne Shorter leads his quartet so that tempos and tonal centers are endlessly subject to flux; and saxophonist Steve Coleman incorporates non-Western musical influences, such as the music of Ghana, India, and Brazil, as well as hip-hop styles. Chinen also points to developing jazz ecologies around the world—in Benin, China, Iraq, South Korea—that illustrate the ways that the music continues to grow and develop. Chinen’s virtuoso jazz history will drive readers to listen to the music anew, or for the first time. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/28/2018
Release date: 08/14/2018
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