Chapin... is a virtuoso... also one of the more schooled musicians in jazz, both technically and historically, and for his set he dug into the styles of everyone from Benny Carter to the 60’s avant-gardists, screeching and howling and huffing as if this were 1964 and he was breaking the rules of jazz into pieces.
— Peter Watrous, 2/11/95, New York Times

The Thomas Chapin Story

A long-form biography by Bob Blumenthal of The Boston Globe.


In every note he played - and most certainly between September 1989 (when the Thomas Chapin trio featured in the Alive collection played its first engagement) until the leukemia that took Chapin's life on February 13, 1998 interrupted his ascendance - Chapin was a study in the testing and exceeding of limits. In every live set and on every recording, he plunged headlong into the musical abyss and responded with a driven yet upbeat concept that held humor, cataclysm and contemplation in rare equilibrium. The sound tapestries that resulted - solidly rooted in a tradition Chapin knew intimately, yet straining that tradition's boundaries at every turn - were both lucid and combustible. They remain just as inspiring now that Chapin is gone. "The point is to stay awake and alive to what is going on," he wrote in 1996; and the sounds Chapin left assure that he continues to be a living force.

The Thomas Chapin Trio

Thomas Chapin formed this trio in September of 1989 to explore ways of creating suspense and drama with three instruments. The pared down format of horn, bass and drums freed Chapin to discover a tremendous variety of tonal textures, unfettered by the traditional jazz trio keyboard element. Joined by long-time musical associate Mario Pavone, the original drummer began with Pheroan AkLaff, followed by Steve Johns, and finally, by 1991, settling in with drummer Michael Sarin, this trio performed mostly original compositions that mix rock-style ostinatos, hard bop, rhythm and blues and free jazz.

Described by critic Kevin Whitehead in Downbeat magazine as “hotly vamping, post-free jazz,” the TRIO’s music is largely original though occasionally drawing upon “the standards” as a point of departure for fresh interpretations.

trio pose.jpg

& More

The Thomas Chapin Era

An article on Thomas Chapin’s work and life from Jazz’halo. Original Flemish text by Jeroen Revalk, updated by Teresita Castillo Chapin (July/August 2016).

In His Own Words

A timeline of Thomas' quotes on artistry and life.

Journey of an Illness

An account of Thomas' last months by Terri Castillo Chapin.

Thomas Chapin, 40, Raucous Musician

The New York Times obituary by Peter Watrous