Playing the Changes is a documentary about the life of jazz pianist Darius Brubeck (born in 1947), the eldest son of legendary jazz musician Dave Brubeck. People quite often see him as 'the son of’ but he has used this distinction with idealism. This story examines why and how jazz had a transformative role in different types of societies such as Poland and South Africa and tracks Darius Brubeck’s involvement in both.
In 1983, during the apartheid-era in South Africa, he started the very first university degree in Jazz on the continent, which was open to everyone. Darius has inspired and taught countless talented musicians. Because of the programme’s success, Darius and his South African wife, Cathy, were able to create the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music, a venue where students rehearse, perform and gain exposure and where visiting international musicians play and teach.
In this documentary, Darius reflects on his life, career and the success of the student ensembles. Using archival footage and interviews, the film highlights his part in a music department that stood at the forefront of cultural opposition to apartheid, and became a flagship anticipating the ‘new’ South Africa.
The documentary also uses anecdotes from various former students, musicologists and jazz historians. We follow Darius and Cathy during anniversary tours in South Africa as well as in Poland, the latter country being where Darius at age 10 made his first appearance on stage.
Playing the Changes is a film about what it is like to grow up as a jazz musician in a turbulent time of racial segregation in the US, political tension during the Cold War and applying these experiences to living and teaching in South Africa. What kind of mentor was Dave for Darius and how much of Dave Brubeck’s legacy is reflected in Darius’ career 100 years after Dave’s birth.