Playing The Changes – Jazz At An African University And On The Road

Catherine and Darius’ book about their work in South Africa will be published internationally on July 9, 2024. It is already available in South Africa.

Playing the Changes book cover

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

These experiences and the hands-on essence of the ways things were done provides this book with an unusually intimate and humane sense of how the commitment to jazz education worked its way through academics, students, visiting musicians and the experiences of students performing at many different venues ‘on the road’.

Michael Gardiner

About Playing the Changes

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 both expressed and resisted the bitter unfairness of apartheid-era South Africa.

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. 


Playing the Changes – in South Africa

Playing the Changes is already available in South Africa with a different cover. See below for the list of bookshops where it is on sale.

Playing the Changes, by Darius Brubeck and Catherine Brubeck

Clarkes Bookshop Cape Town
Fogarty’s Bookshop in Port Elizabeth
Ike’s Bookshop in Durban
Made in Durban online store
Exclusive Books (national chain)
Love Books in Johannesburg 
Van Schaik stores throughout South Africa have stock for walk-in and order. 
University of Kwazulu-Natal Press


Readers’ reviews – praise for Playing the Changes

From Karel Tip (South African Lawyer and Former Senior Counsel):

Congratulations on your fine book!  It’s a superb chronicle not only of your extraordinary creation of a new jazz milieu in South Africa, but also of the contemporaneous and complex political and cultural dynamics that spanned a critical phase of our history. 

I found enormous value in your analysis of the musical scene and the relevant institutional framework.  Equally so in your many thoughtful and insightful commentaries on the broader setting within which you were so intensely engaged.

It required two very special people to grasp the need, the opportunity, and the way forward.  That vision and your determination has achieved enduring change.  You are both legends.

From Robert Fritz (Composer, Author and Film Director):

WOW!  Just finished your book.  I don’t have a lot of time right now to say all the things I want to say about it and about your journey and profound accomplishments, but just a few things:

You as a couple!  The book tells your story as how you both created what became a true artistic center in difficult circumstances, and the way lives and society were changed.

I know this is not a real idea, but the subtitle for the book could be: Creating the changes.  You did more than take an existing structure and riff on it. 

I loved getting to know the various musicians through the book.

Both of you write so well.  It took me years to learn how to write.  (My original writing looked like translations from German.)  So I really appreciate how both of you write with such directness and clarity, and yet, it is so entertaining and fun to read.  There were so many moments in the book that took my breath away.

More than the book, it is the story it tells.  Talk about doing something with your lives!! 

I found the section on celebrity fascinating.  You know, Darius, I always thought of you not as Dave Brubeck’s son, but Darius Brubeck who happen to be Dave Brubeck’s son.  I imagine growing up within that public image demands finding your own way while not rejecting all the greatness about it.  Your description of that was very honest and put us in your universe.  Well done.

The book and the documentary, while focused on the same subject, are entirely different.  Different genres create different possibilities of expression.  The film gives an overview, which includes South Africa, the book tells the story of world development through music in South Africa.

Just to quickly say, you are fantastic!!!!  Bravo, Bravo!!

From William Boone Bonvillian (Author and Lecturer, MIT):

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book which I finished yesterday. It is a wonderful saga of the evolution and growth of jazz in South Africa, of course, but has such a very unusual edge and poignancy because of the parallel and unfolding nightmare of apartheid and it its end that makes it very special. So it’s an inspired story of teaching and educating but also a social drama of the first magnitude – most unusual.  I’m amazed by your efforts to bring change there and by all you accomplished – few have the courage to undertake such things – even if you brush this off, you shouldn’t and remember it for what it was.

Darius, I know you remember what was remarkable about our short sojourn in Mississippi – the sheer courage in the black community we saw everyday and how different that was anything we had seen in daily life before. And obviously you both  headed right back into that in South Africa and participated in it. So I send my great respect for what you have done.

There were many things about the book I really liked – the stories of starting up the program and hitting on the jazz center idea to reach black students, the day deKlerk announced the end of apartheid and the way it ended, the scene with Mandela in the airport, the way your parents supported your efforts, Darius. and many others. I thought Chapter 7 and its stories of the musicians, students and colleagues you worked with was particularly powerful – they are terrific snapshots.