Playing the Changes

Jazz at an African University and on the Road
Author: Darius Brubeck and Catherine Brubeck
The transformative power of jazz
Cloth – $125
Paper – $24.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 07/09/2024
Cloth: 07/09/2024
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About the Book

Catherine and Darius Brubeck’s 1983 move to South Africa launched them on a journey that helped transform jazz education. Blending biography with storytelling, the pair recount their time at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where they built a pioneering academic program in jazz music and managed and organized bands, concerts, and tours around the world.

The Brubecks and the musicians faced innumerable obstacles, from the intensification of apartheid and a lack of resources to the hardscrabble lives that forced even the most talented artists to the margins. Building a program grounded in multi-culturalism, Catherine and Darius encouraged black and white musicians to explore and expand the landscape of South African jazz together. Their story details the sometimes wily, sometimes hilarious problem-solving necessary to move the institution forward while offering insightful portraits of South African jazz players at work, on stage, and providing a soundtrack to the freedom struggle and its aftermath.

Frank and richly detailed, Playing the Changes provides insiders’ accounts of how jazz intertwined with struggle and both expressed and resisted the bitter unfairness of apartheid-era South Africa.

About the Author

Darius Brubeck is an American jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, broadcaster, educator, and former director of the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is the son of legendary jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck. Catherine Brubeck, a South African, has worked in events organization, publishing, and artist management (specializing in jazz) in America, South Africa, and the UK. She was the Project Manager at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music, initiating and organizing extra-curricular projects and events throughout Darius’s term as director.



“Darius and Cathy Brubeck take turns narrating this engrossing memoir of their experiences teaching and presenting music in South Africa from the 1980s into the 2000s. Their humility makes it appealing--they are intent on telling it like it was, not in making everything sound rosy. What makes the book particularly informative for all readers, musicians and otherwise, is the level of detail that they provide about life and politics in South Africa during these years, both in and out of academia.”--Lewis Porter, author of Playback with Lewis Porter!

Playing the Changes is entertaining and profound in equal measure. It tells the story of a remarkable passage in the history of music and the performing arts in higher education, especially at UKZN but in South Africa more widely. Darius and Cathy Brubeck were central to the miraculous chemistry that made it all happen.”--David Attwell, author of J. M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing