During his lifetime, saxophonist Thomas Chapin was regarded as a bridge between the uptown and downtown scenes, being a fixture in both Lionel Hampton's big band and the Knitting Factory's Houston Street stage. Ten years after his death, he was remembered at two concerts by many of the musicians with whom he worked.
"On Sunday, March 9, 2008, the anniversary of the 51st birthday of Thomas Chapin, the last of the three ""Lift Off! Remembering Thomas Chapin"" concerts was held. The concerts commemorated Thomas on the tenth year of his passing.
New York, NY - Rarely in a musical movement has a player left an indelible mark on those with whom he collaborated and those listeners with whom he enthralled more than the late NYC avant jazz saxist, Thomas Chapin. To commemorate this gifted, multi- instrumentalist-composer and to mark the decade since his passing, two NYC concerts are planned by his widow, Terri Castillo-Chapin, with the help of Thomas' many friends and musical colleagues.
"Not even the word ""electrifying"" has quite enough emotional voltage to describe the jolting impact of jazz musician Thomas Chapin’s surprise performance Sunday night at a benefit held to defray the skyrocketing medical costs of his battle with leukemia.
During Thomas Chapin's recent European tour, a male member of audience yelled out, "I want to marry you!!!!!" This adoring fan was probably enamored by how the saxophone and flute player brilliantly combines his postmodern influences and avant-garde associations, which include Anthony Braxton, John Zorn and the band Machine Gun.
Thursday night's triple bill at the Knitting Factory was a study in musical literacy. The three sets, spectacularly diverse, were all products of record collections and warm imaginations, referential as well as reverential: the musicians were capturing and amplifying the aspects of styles that they clearly loved.
By Bob Young, Boston Herald, August 11, 1995
The three-day JVC Jazz Festival, which kicks off today in Newport, R.I., continues its tradition of bringing back familiar stars. Favorites Tito Puente, Earl Klugh, Grover Washington Jr. and Ray Charles are all scheduled.
But a newer tradition will also be in evidence on Sunday afternoon at Fort Adams State Park when the festival features an artist whose most recent CD is fittingly titled, "You Don’t Know Me." Saxophonist and flutist Thomas Chapin, making his Newport debut as a bandleader, is the latest fresh face included by festival producer George Wein to add spice and surprise to the often predictable lineups.
Chapin performed at Newport once before, in the early ‘80s as lead alto and musical director of Lionel Hampton’s band. This time, with drummer Mike Sarin and bassist Mario Pavone, he’ll be covering different territory than he did with the legendary vibes player.
"You Don’t Know Me" (Arabesque) showcases how flawlessly Chapin balances melody and avant-garde adventure as a composer and reedman, whether inspired by Africa, as much of the new CD is, or by his bebop, swing and free jazz experiences.
He’s an exciting player carving out a stylistic path in much the same way that reedmen James Carter and Javon Jackson are.
"I’m exploring different kinds of music," the 38-year-old Chapin said recently from New York. "I’m a 20th century – soon to be 21st century – man, and this is the era we live in. We have a lot of information at our fingertips. But that’s only one aspect, an informational aspect. You want to be as free to follow where your heart leads you as possible."
Chapin’s heart has led him to work with relatively mainstream artists such as Hampton and Chico Hamilton and, in recent years, with much more risk-taking artists in venues including Manhattan’s Knitting Factory, as well as with his mainstream-meets-free-jazz trio.
"It’s a natural thing for me to mix it up," he explained. "It’s all valid material to use. You can take it where you want to take it. The artist needs to be free to do his job as much as possible. That’s what I got into it for and that’s what my commitment is.
"I feel very honored (to be on the Newport bill). As I mature, I get a greater sense of the history and continuum of the music. You have to have this sense of where it’s been, and where it is and where you’d like to go. Where I am right now is seeing a wider perspective of things.
"I want to span the breadth of what’s out there. How can you ignore what’s been? Why can’t there be some sort of integration of styles and ideas? It’s only natural."
"If New York’s downtown jazz experimentalists ever decide to appoint a missionary to proselytize among the uptown traditionalist masses, they’d be wise to choose Thomas Chapin for the job. The Knitting Factory’s most-favored altoist speaks the neo-cons’ language at least as fluently as they themselves, and adds new words to the vocabulary besides.
"Friday's concert at Bryant Park, part of the JVC Jazz Festival, incited two standing ovations, and the groups that provoked them could hardly have been more different. The saxophonist Thomas Chapin set up dance-like ostinatos to improvise over. And Julius Hemphill, a founder of the World Saxophone Quartet (and its most imaginative member), brought his six-saxophone group to the stage for a set of ruminative, lush pieces featuring his distinctive harmonies.
"The alto saxophonist Thomas Chapin ended his first set on Tuesday night with Charlie Parker’s “Red Cross.” Mr. Chapin began it with a chorus or two of cleanly executed be-bop, rhythmically and harmonically assured and idiomatically correct. Slowly he added newer material, repeating ideas that didn’t always conform to the tune's harmony. Rhythm-and-blues figures, howls and strange, jumping sounds that recalled the playing of the saxophonist Earl Bostic showed up.
If Thomas Chapin had been an early 20th-century painter instead of a contemporary jazz saxophonist, he would have been a member of the Fauves, that pack of wild French artists, including Matisse and Rouault, whose works simmered with fury, fragmented images and violent colors.
"The old cliché about a musician bursting onto the scene was never more appropriate than for Thomas Chapin's debut UK appearance on Sunday.
They stand before the audience, like a basketball team at center court before the starting whistle, ready to slap palms, break the huddle, and get on with it. But they're not ball players, they're musicians. An improvisatory ensemble, it says here.