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Thomas Chapin Trio: Ride

Chris May By

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Whooooah! To keep up with saxophonist/flautist Thomas Chapin on this one, you're going to need some of those monkey adrenal glands Hunter S. Thompson wrote about, or at the very least a seat belt and a note from your mom. Ride—and if ever an album deserved an exclamation mark at the end of its title, this is one—is a 72-minute recording of a 1995 North Sea Jazz Festival performance of near-constant, broiling and searing emotional heat. It's magnificent, monumental and practically unprecedented.

Chapin, who died tragically young in 1998, was his own man, but his music resonated loudly with the work of reed giants from an earlier age. Earl Bostic, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Eric Dolphy are the influences most commonly cited in this regard. Like their music, Chapin's is drenched in the blues, and his use of vocalisation (particularly on the flute) can be traced directly back to Delta pennywhistle musicians recorded by musicologist Alan Lomax in the '30s and '40s.

On this album, the two strongest inspirations are Bostic and Kirk—the former, of course, for his blues, but also for his no-limits technical facility. High-end harmonics and circular breathing were just two of Bostic's accomplishments. He played simple music, but with a technique that awed later, more structurally complex masters like John Coltrane, who worked with him through much of 1952. (In his definitive study John Coltrane: His Life And Music, published by the University Of Michigan Press in 1998, Lewis Porter includes a 150-word paean of praise by Benny Golson, which reads in part: "[Bostic was the] best technician I ever heard in my life! Charlie Parker couldn't touch him... He was from another planet.") Chapin had a big chunk of that facility down, and the soul and dirty funk to go with it.

The relevance of Kirk's fervent intensity to Chapin's music is perhaps even more obvious, made explicit by Chapin's moaning, voodoo flute cries. I was lucky enough to hear Kirk live on several occasions, and it was always a bacchanalian thrill, but I can't remember him ever playing flute as wild as Chapin does on "Aeolus" here. On alto or sopranino saxophone too, he brings a degree of visceral lyricism to his playing that Kirk only rarely captured on disc. One such occasion was as a featured sideman on Roy Haynes' 1962 Impulse! album Out Of The Afternoon. Chapin ramps up an even higher temperature on and off (mainly on) throughout this set.

Visit Thomas Chapin on the web.

Track Listing: Anima; Pet Scorpion; Night Bird Song; Aeolus; Bad Birdie; Changes Two Tires; Ticket To Ride.

Personnel: Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone, flute; Mario pavone: bass; Michael Sarin: drums.

Title: Ride | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings

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