Jen Chapin/Stephan Crump: Open Wide (2002)
Like the popular “jazz” singer Nora Jones and some of the work of Cassandra Wilson, the music on Jen Chapin’s newest release on the Purple Chair Music label, Open Wide provides another example of the wide range of influences today’s musicians are confronted and how the boundaries of what constitutes jazz perhaps have been expanded. The typical elements that are often associated with jazzbluesy inflections in the melody, complex harmonies, and swing are not readily apparent in Chapin’s music. Although her songwriting has a very impressive genetic precedent (her father was 1970’s singer/songwriter icon Harry Chapin) and she studied jazz at Berklee, Chapin sounds more like a folk inspired pop singer than a jazz diva on this CD.
What Chapin and her husband, bassist Stephan Crump, do provide is a pleasantly stark presentation of songs with very personal, self-absorbed, introspective lyrics. The minimalist approaches in fact enhance the presentation in that the listener may focus their attention on Chapin’s lyrics and voice rather than be distracted by a number of other musical layers. One drawback to this approach is that the 10 songs that comprise the approximately 39 minutes of music on the CD all sound relatively alike.
Jen Chapin sings with a wonderful voice that delivers a song in a clear unadulterated manner. Is Jen Chapin a socially conscious artist/musician? The liner notes to Open Wide indicate she is continuing her father’s vision of the eradication of hunger as part of a collective called World Hunger Year(’s) Artists Against Hunger and Poverty. Is Jen Chapin a creative poet/lyricist? The imagery conjured by her words would likely support that she is. Is Jen Chapin a creative writer of melody? The overly similar melodic content from one song to another on this CD may lend evidence otherwise. To what degree is Jen Chapin a jazz singer? Based on the evidence provided by Chapin and Crump on Open Wide, that is a question that cannot be definitively answered.
Track Listing: Hurry Up Sky, Open Wide, Way, Portrait, Gold, Don't Miss You, Passive People, I'll Take You With Me, NYC, Slow Tide
Personnel: Jen Chapin, vocals and songwriter; Stephan Crump, acoustic bass and noises
Record Label: Purple Chair Records