Never Let Me Go Reviews

Robert Iannapollo, New York City Jazz Record

February 2013

In the annals of jazz there are way too many “gone- too-soons”. One of the more notable losses of recent vintage was the passing of saxophonist/ flutist Thomas Chapin at the age of 40 from leukemia 15 years ago this month. Chapin was an alto saxophonist who seemed to draw inspiration from every era of jazz, including playing free jazz with conviction. He had a great knowledge of standards and composed interesting pieces in his own right. Chapin was mostly recorded with his trio (the best way to hear him) but around 1994-95 he did two quartet dates for the Arabesque label that were a little more straightahead than was his norm.

Never Let Me Go is a three-CD bonanza that collects two live quartet concerts from the same period (Flushing Town Hall, 1995 and Knitting Factory, 1996) recorded with pianist Peter Madsen and the rhythm sections of Kiyoto Fujiwara and Reggie Nicholson (Flushing Town Hall) or Scott Colley and Matt Wilson (Knitting Factory).

The first two discs are taken up by the Flushing concert and they sound programmed in sequence. The first disc sounds like an early set but it has its highlights, including a stunning interpretation of Artie Shaw’s “Moonray” and Chapin’s “Opuwo”. But the second set really opens up for some looser playing from all concerned. On Monk’s “Ugly Beauty”, done as a duet with Madsen, Chapin sounds uncannily like Johnny Hodges, bending his notes and swooping his phrases. This segues nicely into a high-energy version of Charlie Parker’s blues “Red Cross”. Many of these tracks were studio recorded for the Arabesque discs but these live versions are freer and more expansive.

The Knitting Factory date, a year later, is the highlight. Chapin’s approach to the quartet seems to have loosened up considerably and the energy level is cranked up. “Sky Piece” is more than double its studio length and goes in unexpected directions. Madsen seems particularly inspired and his interaction with Chapin is almost psychic. The rousing concluding track, “Lovellevellilloqui” by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, is a fitting tribute to one of Chapin’s prime inspirations. And Never Let Me Go is a fitting tribute to Chapin, one of the finest players of the ‘90s who was gone too soon.