Nate Chinen has written a terrific book about the shape of contemporary jazz, and right now is a terrific time to read it ... Instead of looking for tidy torch-passings or binary clashes between competing schools and styles, his ecumenical ear glides across the entirety of the greater jazz ecosystem, listening for the good stuff ... The book’s arrival ultimately feels so well-timed ... you don’t have to sit around and wonder what it all sounds like. Just reach for that little computer in your pocket and press play ... Each album Chinen has chosen is worth at least one spin on your handy pocket computer ... Playing Changes encourages us to listen to jazz the same way we might try to live life: Start anywhere, go everywhere.
[Chinen's] new book, Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century, is a loud, clear refutation of the misguided opinion that 'jazz is dead,' preserved in amber like an archeological artifact ... For the most part, Playing Changes acts as something of a selected index of contemporary jazz artists, with many chapters serving double duty as both a feature piece on a specific musician as well as how their work impacts the overall genre ... Chinen's elegant, evocative writing—a mesmerizing staple of this essential book ... demands the reader's time and attention ... Like the best nonfiction, Playing Changes will motivate jazz diehards and neophytes alike to discover what's out there and what's on the horizon.
His criticism and reporting shy away from grand pronouncements yet amply reflect jazz’s present vitality ... The jazz wars subsided largely because both sides realized insufficient spoils. Mr. Chinen ignores that fact, yet makes a persuasive case that this once-elemental schism is now largely beside the point ... Thankfully, Mr. Chinen doesn’t seek to define jazz. He focuses on subtler existential dilemmas ... Jazz fans and critics love to quibble. Yet Mr. Chinen’s choices—his narrative subjects and lists of recommended recordings—are hard to question ... The role of jazz as ritual music with a spiritual function is notably less conspicuous here. Nevertheless, Mr. Chinen appears bent on a kind of enlightenment. His narrative traces a sturdy, finely crafted and open-ended framework for consideration of where jazz is headed, and why—and a treaty to maintain jazz-war disarmament.