232

Thomas Chapin Trio: Night Bird Song

David Adler By

Sign in to view read count
Saxophonist/flautist Thomas Chapin died of leukemia in February 1998 at the age of 40. Night Bird Song is a posthumous release of a 1992 recording session, and it’s beautiful, confirming Chapin’s stature as an immortal jazz artist. With Chapin on alto and sopranino saxophones, flute, and alto flute, Mario Pavone on bass, and Michael Sarin on drums and percussion, Night Bird Song memorializes Chapin the man as it documents musical creativity of the highest order.

While Chapin’s music can safely be called avant-garde, finding a home under the Knitting Factory umbrella, there’s something uncommonly accessible about it. Listening to this record, you don’t struggle in vain to understand some rarefied discourse—you move your body. Chapin knew how to make high art and simultaneously please a crowd. He created new and original sounds without being self-consciously cute or pointlessly outrageous. His avant-garde was not an anything-goes affair. There was furious and irrepressible energy, but control and calibration were never far behind. He drew on genres and stylistic influences other than jazz, yet without hodge-podge results. The horn virtuosity and compositional maturity on this record easily matches any giant of our day—Joe Lovano’s Trio Fascination comes to mind.

"Opening," listed in the liner notes as "Eternal Eye," begins the disc with a wispy, rubato, flute-driven meditation. The piece ends, an alarm clock goes off (literally), and the trio kicks off "Alphaville," featuring a ridiculously clever unison melody played by alto and drums with a clock-like bass line underneath, then an insanely funky groove in 10, and finally an eruption into breakneck swing. Chapin begins a killer solo that is unfailingly in the pocket, deeply informed by bebop, and rich with references to the melody of the tune. The trio interplay is tumultuous, with Sarin’s drums really revving up during the trading toward the end.

The next three tracks, "Night Bird Song," "Cliff Island," and "The Roaring S," are also knockout punches. Chapin’s sopranino intro and solo on "Cliff Island" are superb—perhaps what Joe Henderson would sound like on the small, high-pitched horn. Pavone’s unaccompanied intro to "Night Bird Song" is wonderful, as is Sarin’s on "The Roaring S." On the latter, Chapin plays his alto without a reed, exhibiting masterful note control. Sarin repeats and repeats a fast 6/8 rudiment as Chapin continues the reedless blowing, and the sheer instrumental mastery of it all creates a dizzying effect.

The pace slows with a singable ballad called "Aeolus," which is followed by the whimsical "Tweeter’s Little Adventures." Capping things off is the furious, fast funk of "Changes Two Tires." There is not a weak track on the album. Each tune has a distinct personality and demonstrates a different facet of Chapin’s, and this trio’s, musical imagination. Although it’s said too often of too many, it is indeed baffling why Thomas Chapin is not more widely known. Perhaps now that he’s gone, typically, his popularity will grow.

Cyberhome: www.knittingfactory.com

Title: Night Bird Song | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Knitting Factory

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Bad Birdie

Bad Birdie

Thomas Chapin
Ride

Film Reviews
Album Reviews
Wide Open Jazz and Beyond
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go

Playscape Recordings
2016

buy
 

Never Let Me Go

Playscape Recordings
2013

buy
Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go

Playscape Recordings
2012

buy
Ride

Ride

Playscape Recordings
2007

buy
Ride

Ride

Playscape Recordings
2006

buy
Toronto 1997: A Suite for Thomas Chapin

Toronto 1997: A Suite...

Boxholder Records
2004

buy

Related Articles

Read Phoenix Rising Album Reviews
Phoenix Rising
By Jack Bowers
June 24, 2019
Read Last Works Album Reviews
Last Works
By Doug Hall
June 24, 2019
Read The Change Album Reviews
The Change
By Roger Farbey
June 24, 2019
Read City Night Album Reviews
City Night
By Doug Collette
June 24, 2019
Read Waves Album Reviews
Waves
By John Eyles
June 23, 2019
Read Elevate Album Reviews
Elevate
By Doug Collette
June 23, 2019
Read Connor Sings — Kenton Swings Album Reviews
Connor Sings — Kenton Swings
By Jack Bowers
June 23, 2019