It seems hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the passing of the Great Thomas Chapin in February of 1998. Mr. Chapin was an incredible alto saxist, flute player, composer and bandleader, an unstoppable free spirit who touched anyone who met him or witnessed his music live or on record. I am a longtime jazz sax fan-addict and have caught as many legendary, well-known or not so, saxists as I can, still searching for that ultimate inspired solo or improvisation… I have been fortunate to have watched two alto saxists evolve into becoming giants: John Zorn and Thomas Chapin. Both are/were good friends! What I always loved about Mr. Chapin is that he successfully bridged the gap between, the inside and outside schools of jazz, swinging his tush off in one piece and then soaring into free terrain, further and further out and always landing on his feet!
Thanks to Thomas’ longtime partner, Terri Castillo Chapin, we just got in several boxes of Thomas Chapin CDs which are listed below. So, let us celebrate by offering those of you who knew of Mr. Chapin’s recorded works and those of you new to his legacy a chance to listen and capture his unique spirit/force playing. There are two box sets listed first on KnitWorks and Playscape and both are essential for any Thomas Chapin fan. If you want to start off with just a single CD or two, you can select the either of the KnitWorks CDs (both found in the Knit box set) and/or the one Machine Gun CD we still have in stock. The list below includes most of what is still available from Mr. Chapin’s catalogue. I can whole-heartedly recommend anything from below since I dig each and every one of these gems. Besides CD’s, we are also listing a few albums, cassettes and even sheet music!?!
The Big Sale!
THOMAS CHAPIN TRIO With MARIO PAVONE/MICHAEL SARIN or STEVE JOHNS et al - Alive: Third Force/Anima/Insomnia/Menagerie Dreams/Haywire/Sky Piece/Night Bird Song/Live! On Tour: UC Davis 1992 (KinitWorks 248; USA)
This box-set Incorporates all seven of the late legendary saxophonist/wind player Thomas Chapin Trio's [with Mario Pavone bass and Michael Sarin drums; Steve Johns is the drummer on Anima and Third Force] CD releases on the Knitting Factory [Knitworks] label: 1.Third Force; 2.Anima; 3.Insomnia plus Brass: Al Bryant (trumpet) Frank London (trumpet) Marcus Rojas (tuba) Curtis Fowlkes (trombone) Peter McEachern (trombone); 4.Menagerie Dreams with guest John Zorn; 5.Haywire plus Strings: Mark Feldman (violin) Kiyoto Fujiwara (bass) Boris Rayskin (cello); 6.Sky Piece; 7.Night Bird Song plus an eighth, previously unreleased disc 'Live! On Tour' which contains 50 minutes from University Of California-Davis 3/4/92 concert (audio) plus "Night Bird Song (Excerpt)" at the 1995 JVC/Newport Jazz Festival (video). Luxuriously packaged in book binder/pocket style and receives our extremely highest recommendation musically (as well as for presentation)!!!
"Listening to Thomas Chapin's seven trio CDs in the wake of his untimely death only drives home further the loss the jazz world suffered when he succumbed to cancer in 1998. Chapin's discography extends beyond the seven albums he and his trio released in the 1990s, but he never sounded more complete and rounded than when with his trio mates -bassist Mario Pavone and drummers Steve Johns and, for most sessions, Michael Sarin. Chapin's searing, rapid-fire solos and intricate melodies begged for a bassist that could match his stair-climb sprints and steep descents, and Pavone did so at all times. With Alive, you get the best tribute imaginable: a complete set of Chapin's Knitting Factory CDs along with a previously unreleased 1995 live session. From his trio debut, Anima, to the last studio album, Sky Piece, the band seems aimed at a group concept that's well defined and intensely creative. Chapin plays with a formal sense and tunefulness that owes tons to Sonny Rollins. Riffs build into mini-solos, and rhythmic breaks become melodies, almost without the ear noticing. Chapin's group concept was expandable, too, which shows on Insomnia--with its five added brass players--and Haywire--with its three added string players. Where Insomnia milks the brass for thick funk, Haywire spins waltzes and string textures that emphasize a completely different realm of sonic nuance. The final CD of the set catches the trio live at the 1995 JVC-Newport Jazz Festival, and they play the complex tunes letter perfectly, with Sarin drumming especially hard and Chapin roughing up his tone far more than usual. At different times, he plays with the bittersweet bite of Eric Dolphy and the drive of Hank Crawford. He made it all an amazingly fluid continuum." - Andrew Bartlett
THOMAS CHAPIN QUARTETS With PETER MADSEN/KIYOTO FUJIWARA or SCOTT COLLEY/REGGIE NICHOLSON or MATT WILSON - Never Let Me Go: Quartets '95 & '96 (Playscape 111095; USA)
A new three-disc set featuring two UNRELEASED late-career performances by saxophonist/composer Thomas Chapin, including his final New York concert before succumbing to leukemia in 1998 at age 40. Mixed and mastered from original tapes discovered in the private family collection, this special historical release was produced in partnership with Akasha, Inc., the non-profit organization founded in 1999 by Chapin's widow, Terri Castillo-Chapin, to preserve and advance his musical legacy. In addition to the music, the set features liner notes from veteran jazz journalist and broadcaster Brian Morton, exclusive archival photos and remembrances from the musicians who joined him for these shows. Discs one and two capture Chapin's working quartet of the time, with pianist Peter Madsen, bassist Kiyoto Fujiwara and drummer Reggie Nicholson, performing at Flushing Town Hall in Queens on November 10th, 1995. The group played two selections from You Don't Know Me (Arabesque Records), as well as a wide variety of other material, including Artie Shaw's "Moonray", Thelonious Monk's "Ugly Beauty", Charlie Parker's "Red Cross" and Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman". Chapin founded this ensemble in the early 90's to explore new harmonic possibilities in his music after years of performing and recording with his highly regarded trio. In addition to this date, they performed regularly around New York, including week-long engagements at Iridium Jazz Club and The Village Gate. In contrast, the third disc captures the first and only concert ever played by a later quartet featuring Madsen, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Matt Wilson at The Knitting Factory on December 19th, 1996. For what turned out to be his final performance in New York, this ensemble presented extended readings of three new pieces written specifically for its all-star lineup, as well as a version of his well-known composition "Sky Piece" and an arrangement of Roland Kirk's "Lovellevellilloqui". "They can do just about anything," wrote Peter Watrous in his review of this show for the New York Times, "and Mr. Chapin had the group move from freetime sections to swinging parts that moved with complex harmonies. Mr. Wilson doubled and halved the tempos; the music sounded wonderfully unstable. One piece, a ballad, invoked the Blue Note Label in 1964; Mr. Chapin tore through a composition by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, using a hard, rough tone. He likes heat and velocity, and the music flew by, jammed with notes." In summing up Chapin's place in jazz history for the eight-disc retrospective Alive (Knitting Factory Works) in 1999, GRAMMY(r) winning jazz critic and author Bob Blumenthal wrote, "An honest appraisal of the universe of improvised music created in the decade of his activity as a bandleader should persuade all but the most doctrinaire that Thomas Chapin was one of the definitive artists of the 1990s. Not the most heavily exposed or fashionable, perhaps; but a musician who got at the emotional and spiritual nub of what jazz is supposed to be about as successfully and consistently as anyone working during the period." CD #1 & #2 - Quartet 1995 - Thomas Chapin - alto sax & flute; Peter Madsen - piano; Kiyoto Fujiwara - bass; Reggie Nicholson - drums CD #3 - Quartet 1996 - Thomas Chapin - alto sax & flute; Peter Madsen - piano; Scott Colley - bass; Matt Wilson - drums
THOMAS CHAPIN TRIO With MARIO PAVONE/MICHAEL SARIN JOHN ZORN/VERNON FRAZER - Menagerie Dreams (KnitWorks 167; USA)
“One of the late Thomas Chapin's finest all-round recordings, this set starts out in somewhat startling fashion with screaming by Chapin and John Zorn on altos before settling down into a relatively straight-ahead jam. Zorn is on two selections (including one that includes poetry from Vernon Frazer) but otherwise this is a trio outing, showcasing Chapin on flute, baritone, soprano, and particularly alto while joined by bassist Mario Pavone and drummer Michael Sarin. While there are adventurous and free sections, Chapin also has the opportunity to play the blues (on Thelonious Monk's "Raise Four"), completely rework Duke Ellington's "Daydream" (which is given a Western motif by bassist Pavone), show off the influence of Eric Dolphy, and introduce such intriguing originals as "A Drunken Monkey" and "The Night Hog." Highly recommended.” - Scott Yanow, AMG
THOMAS CHAPIN TRIO With MARIO PAVONE/MICHAEL SARIN - Night Bird Song: Live At Kampo Cultural Center 1992 (KnitWorks 240; USA)
I recently wrote a long article about my friend and inspiration Thomas Chapin for a magazine that the Knit is starting. The article explored our ten year friendship and history, highlighted when I convinced the Knit to let Thomas' trio open for a Zorn trio where everyone in attendance was blown away by both units. The Knit soon started their own label, signed Thomas' trio and eventually released six cds by this wonderful trio. This cd was actually recorded in 1992, during the early days of this trio. It was shelved until now and as Thomas wished, it would be released after last year's final effort 'Sky Piece.' Although three of the pieces on this cd were also on "Sky Piece', the versions found here are earlier and different. I recall all these pieces with deep affection, after witnessing this amazing trio on dozens of gigs through the years, as well as playing 'Sky Piece' every day at DMG for months after Thomas' devastating and untimely passing in February of '98. On "Opening" it is Thomas' gorgeous flute playing that soothes a world filled with dark spirits. It is also Thomas' flute that fills "Aeolus" with a sad but breathtakingly beautiful vibe, it was also the very last piece Thomas played in public just two weeks previous to his passing. "Alphaville" was often a set opener, due to its rambunctious groove, it explodes with passion and the celebration of life after the opening alarm clock wakes us all up. It is here where Thomas' bittersweet tone and honking swagger sound rather Dolphy-esque. For many of us, this was thee perfect trio that could do anything-Mario Pavone's contrabass and Michael Sarin's drum are a constant source of combustion, release and surprise, from whirlwinds to soft breeze. Besides alto sax and flute, Thomas also played the rarely heard sopranino on two pieces found here. The sopranino is both shorter and higher pitched than a soprano sax, still Thomas sails with this exotic sounding horn, once more parting the heavens with his soaring sound. Thomas' laughter at the beginning of the final piece "Changes Two Tires" reminds me of the happy spirit that always defined his vibe, this final piece explodes as his alto unleashes frenzied lines for the last wonderful assault on our senses. Thomas chose the mystical Panamanian cloth cover art as well. Just the right cover to adorn this superb release. - BLG
* MACHINE GUN [ROBERT MUSSO / THOMAS CHAPIN / JOHN RICHEY / JAIR-ROHM PARKER WELLS / BIL BRYANT] - Pass the Ammo (MuWorks 1011; USA) Mind-blowing, intense and over-the-top! One of the most intense and creative free/jazz/rock/punk/funk/noise bands of all time!
MACHINE GUN [ROBERT MUSSO/THOMAS CHAPIN/JOHN RICHEY/JAIR-ROHM PARKER WELLS/BIL BRYANT] SONNY SHARROCK/KARL BERGER - Machine Gun (MuWorks 1001; USA)
MACHINE GUN [ROBERT MUSSO/THOMAS CHAPIN/JOHN RICHEY/JAIR-ROHM PARKER WELLS/BIL BRYANT] SONNY SHARROCK - Open Fire (MuWorks 1003; USA)
The second amazing album by this great rock/jazz/noise/improv band with stellar players Robert Musso, the late Thomas Chapin, Bil Bryant, Jair-Rohm Parker Wells, John Richey with special guest Sonny Sharrock; all recorded at live shows!
MARIO PAVONE With THOMAS CHAPIN / MARTY EHRLICH / PETER McEACHERN / PETER MADSEN / STEVE JOHNS - Dancers Tale (Knit Works 2015; USA)
“A musical compatriot of the likes of Paul Bley and Anthony Braxton, bassist/composer Mario Pavone walks a fine line between traditional blowing and open-ended progressiveness on this tribute to Charles Mingus. Here, with the help of pianist Peter Madsen, saxophonist Thomas Chapin, trombonist Peter McEachern, and drummer Steve Johns, he reveals his latest musical vision, a vivid, multi-colored panorama of angular melodies, unpredictable contrasts, tight grooves, unique forms, and articulate blowing.
The weird polyphony of the title track gives way to a toe-tapping rhythm, revealing the tune’s overall scheme: a free-floating section followed by a funky Latin groove. “Bootleg” swings to the articulate brush work of Johns and supports the eccentric improvisational musings of McEachern and Chapin, whose solos give tone color, phrasing, and note choice the same importance. The final track, “Foxwood Shuffle,” especially reveals Pavone’s considerable instrumental skills despite the fact that the recorded bass sound is short on presence and tone. Nevertheless, the low-end ostinato provides a firm foundation for the blowing, which culminates in a rousing free-for-all. An exceptionally organic musical high-wire act that is always suspenseful but never falters.” - Jim Ferguson, Jazz Times
ROBERT MUSSO With BILL LASWELL/THOMAS CHAPIN/AIYB DIENG/JONAS HELLBORG/BERNIE WORRELL/BOOTSY COLLINS - Active Resonance (MuWorks 1008; USA)
“Guitar great Musso w/ Bill Laswell, Bootsy Collins, Jonas Hellborg, Thomas Chapin, Aiyb Dieng. From avant-rock to bizarre funk/jazz! "Guitarist, composer, and master mixing engineer Robert Musso has issued another chapter in his evolving space-dub jam session recordings. This one features many of the usual suspects -- Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell, Aiyb Deng, Bootsy Collins, and some others, such as the late Thomas Chapin, Jonas Hellborg, and Tanar Catalpinar. The assemblage offers a new listen to Musso's integrational conception of opposites attracting under the influence of rhythm. Here, the post-modal jazz of John Coltrane is heard as it meets the dawn of 1990s funk-dub world-fusion on "A Dream Supreme," and the shifting sands of global cowboy-ism as it voices its desolation on "Alliance." On "All Funked Up," Afro-funk meets the J.B.'s with Bootsy on grunting cheerleader vocals. And so it goes, with the only cohesive glue in the cracks being Musso's disciplined direction, excellent guitar playing, and his indomitable sense of groove no matter what the genre stipulations -- check "Tanar!" with its muezzin wailing over a wall of deep space dub. Or the Eastern-tinged modalism of "Home Growing," where it meets the terrain of euphoric jazz and rock. Recommended." - Thom Jurek, AMG
JOHN McCRACKEN & OUTLOUD With THOMAS CHAPIN/CHARLES BALDWIN/ABE SPELLER - Blood from a Tone (MuWorks 1010; USA)
Featuring John McCracken on guitar, Thomas Chapin on alto sax, Charles Baldwin on bass and Abe Speller on drums. I caught this quartet at the old Knitting Factory a couple of times and thought they were pretty great!. The rhythm team also worked with Sonny Sharrock on his ‘Highlife’ release. Downtown sax legend was a member of Machine Gun and had his own trio which had some 7 discs out on the Knit Works label. - BLG/DMG
THOMAS CHAPIN With RONNIE MATTHEWS / RAY DRUMMOND / JOHN BETSCH ARA DINKJIAN / SAM TURNER - Radius (MuWorks 1005: USA)
The great, late reedman Thomas Chapin with Ronnie Mathews, Ray Drummond, John Betsch and guests Ara Dinkjian, Sam Turner. Intense modern jazz with a great improv edge! The first release by Chapin's Radius Quartet burns throughout its 50-minute duration. Backed by stellar players such as bassist Ray Drummond, pianist Ronnie Mathews and drummer John Betsch, Chapin delivers an invigorating, strong, straight-ahead program. Chapin brings all his musical experience - he was the music director of Lionel Hampton's Big Band from '81-'86, as well as collaborating with Chico Hamilton, cellist Jane Scarpatoni, bluesman "Gatemouth' Brown, to name a few - into clear focus. All tunes were composed by Chapin with the exception of his eloquent rendition of Fats Waller's Jitterbug Waltz. Chapin, aside from having an astonishing command of both flute and alto saxophone, also possesses an individual voice on both instruments, a commendable trait these days, especially when many young players seem to disregard the virtues of developing one's own sound. The ever-so-underrated bassist, Ray Drummond, shines throughout Radius; also, pianist Ronnie Mathews' playing is nothing short of spectacular, anchoring the whole band with grace and fire. - CMJ
THOMAS CHAPIN - Ten Compositions - Volume 1 (Peace Park Publishing)
Written/Sheet music for 10 Thomas Chapin Songs from his early period, ‘Radius’ (MuWorks) and ’Spirits Rebellious’ (Alacra) albums.
The following Five CD’s from the Playscape label are all still in print and we can get them pretty quickly:
MICHAEL MUSILLAMI With THOMAS CHAPIN/RANDY BRECKER/RAY DRUMMOND/KENT HEWITT/STEVE JOHNS - Mar's Bars (Playscape 120192; USA)
Featuring Thomas Chapin, Randy Brecker, Ray Drummond, Kent Hewitt, Steve Johns Guitarist Michael Musillami has a fuzztone/rock approach which might lead one to expect a more pop or fusion date than they get on GlassArt. It's a pleasure to hear aggressive, hard-hitting material rather than overproduced mood music. Musillami's riffs, fills, and phrases are edgy and frequently enticing, with a solid bluesy sensibility and drive. Randy Brecker's trumpet, especially his muted passages, are lyrical yet full and inviting, while Thomas Chapin is a bit more subdued than usual on flute and alto sax but fits the context well. This has a contemporary production style and design but a timeless quality and energy. - Ron Wynn, AMG
MICHAEL MUSILLAMI With THOMAS CHAPIN/CLAUDIO RODITI/KENT HEWITT/CHARLES 'CHIP' JACKSON/STEVE JOHNS - Groove Teacher (Playscape 120694; USA)
Musillami's band gets bigger with each installment of his reissue trilogy of recordings with Thomas Chapin. On part three, Groove Teacher, the ensemble grows to a septet with the inclusion of tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore. Trumpeter Claudio Roditi replaces Randy Brecker from the previous album, Mar's Bars; bassist Charles (Chip) Jackson also comes on board for the first time. The four who have remained steady throughout are guitarist Musillami, pianist Kent Hewitt, drummer Steve Johns, and alto saxophonist/flutist Thomas Chapin (to whom the album is now dedicated). Hewitt and Chapin are particularly brilliant on this record, having had ample opportunity to absorb Musillami's concept as a composer and bandleader. But, not to be outdone, newcomer Jackson plays a number of showstopping solos during the course of the program. There are quite a few unexpected twists in this batch of original compositions, including the reggae groove of the title track and the shifting meter (6/8 to 4/4) of the high-intensity modal piece "Today the Angels Cry." Other highlights include "Peninsula," a concise suite (four parts in as many minutes) that closes the album, and "The Gift," a fast waltz with the kind of intricate multi-part writing that graced Musillami's previous effort. The scope of Chapin's talent is especially evident in the contrast between his impeccably modern flute solo on "Open Ended" and his pure bop alto escapade on "Big Ears and the Blues."
MICHAEL MUSILLAMI With THOMAS CHAPIN / KENT HEWITT / NAT REEVES / STEVE JOHNS - Archives [a/k/a The Young Child] (Playscape 120990; USA)
“Michael Musillami recorded this album back in 1990, and in 2000 it was reissued by the guitarist's own Playscape label as part one of a trilogy. (The trilogy also includes 1992's Mar's Bars and 1994's Groove Teacher.) All three albums are eloquent statements from a fine guitarist and composer, but they're also vital documents in the tragically shortened career of the late alto saxophonist and flutist Thomas Chapin. On part one, Archives, Musillami and Chapin are joined by pianist Kent Hewitt, bassist Nat Reeves, and drummer Steve Johns. The wholly original program kicks off with the title track, its unusual half-time, walking tempo setting a tone that hints at the avant-garde. Musillami's tone is trebly, his attack pointed and well-defined. Chapin's solo is characteristically free jazz in spirit, even as he makes every one of the chord changes. Hewitt brings it back around to a more subdued, hard bop vibe during his solo. Much of the rest of the album is a bit more consonant, or what jazzers call "inside." Chapin's flute is a delight on the brisk waltz "Beijing," the beautiful ballad "Emmett Spencer," and the relaxed Latin piece with the manifesto-like title, "I Still Do It for the Music." Toward the end of the ballad in particular, you can hear Chapin's breath as he pauses between the last few held notes, and this sound is precious indeed. Beginning with a rubato introduction, "The Young Child" then kicks into a fast, driving Latin feel, setting up a soaring, passionate melody played in unison on guitar and alto sax. Another of the more energetic tunes is "Ry-Bop," a swinging event that gets off the ground with a burning solo by Hewitt, followed by Musillami and finally a screaming, riotous round from Chapin. "Mohawk Mountain," an ultra-fast line based on "Cherokee," closes the album; the group plays it down once, making for a concise, 51-second conclusion. - David R Adler”
ARMEN DONELIAN With THOMAS CHAPIN/CALVIN HILL/JEFF WILLIAMS - Quartet Language: Live At Visiones 1992 (Playscape 050292; USA)
Featuring Mr. Donelian on piano & compositions, Thomas Chapin on alto sax, Calvin Hill on bass and Jeff Williams on drums. This long lost treasure was recorded live at (the now defunkt) Visiones in May of 1992 and has remained in the can ever since, as Armen searched for an appropriate label. The late Thomas Chapin was one of the greatest alto sax & flute players of all time and also close friend and kindred spirit of mine. Many of us who got an opportunity to hear him play live will forever mourn his loss (in 1998), hence it is a joyous thing to actually have two previously unreleased discs come out this year, the other a fabulous live duo with Borah Bergman. Armen Donelian is another of those great unsung jazz piano heroes who has live here for a couple of decades, yet only has a few discs in print as a leader (3 on Sunnyside). Both rhythm team players are also veterans, Calvin Hill has worked with McCoy Tyner, Betty Carter & Max Roach; Jeff Williams has worked with Dave Liebman, Stan Getz & Joe Lovano and has resurfaced in NY over the past few years. Right from the opening tune, "jabberwackey", Thomas' wonderful bittersweet alto sax tone sings true loud and clear and sends shivers of recognition through me. Thomas' solo shows off his infinite charm, balancing between the many worlds of jazz, swinging intensely yet almost breaking free of the song structure as he sails higher. Both Armen's consistently challenging songs and inventive solos are excellent throughout, also pushing the equally creative rhythm team. Each of the five pieces here are over ten minutes long and filled with some crafty surprises, unexpected twists and turns. On "the germ", there is piano and bass duo which sounds as if it were taken from another more classical piece, but still fits perfectly within the overall scheme. "mexico" has a most relaxed and lovely melody, a sort of siesta with a beautiful, rich and haunting solos from Armen, Thomas and Calvin as well as righteous rhythm team support, especially Jeff's mallet work. "brood mood", which closes features another slow, moody theme with a dreamy vibe. For me, Thomas' passionate solo is about as great as it gets, like a spirit reaching forth and pulling at our hearts and minds, all we can say is "amen". Completely stunning. A perfect gift for someone you really love. - BLG/DMG