When leukemia claimed Thomas Chapin at the age of forty in 1998, his mixture of the avant garde and the accessible placed him and his rhythm section at the verge of jazz stardom. Already a downtown NYC legend, Chapin was among the first artists to perform at the Knitting Factory and the first to be signed to the club's record label. By 1995, when his band performed in front of an enthusiastic North Sea Jazz Festival crowd, Chapin's core trio (completed by bassist Mario Pavone and drummer Michael Sarin) was at the height of its power.
This previously unreleased concert (in what amounts to a program of the trio's greatest hits) opens with Chapin's ferocious cadenza that introduces the seventeen-minute burner "Anima. The spiky and elusive "Pet Scorpion follows hot on its heels, and Chapin's tone on alto is like chocolate milk laced with strychnine. Chapin closes the concert on alto, as well, with tongue slaps and fairly straight-ahead playing on the stop-and-start knotty interlockings of "Changes Two Tires. For the encore, the band thrashes even harder on their version of "Ticket to Ride, a crowd-pleaser that manages to revitalize the familiar melody, particularly when the band tears into the chorus. In between Chapin switches to his other main instrument, the flute, allowing him to indulge his more ethereal side with sweet evocations of nature on "Night Bird Song and "Aeolus.
Ride documents Chapin's wit, openness and warmth, as reflected back by Pavone and Sarin, who respond with emotional playing and virtuosic excellence. You get the sense that had Chapin lived, things would be different for everyone who was touched by this spiritually expansive artist.
Track Listing: Anima; Pet Scorpion; Night Bird Song; Aeolus; Bad Birdie; Changes Two Tires; Ticket to Ride.
Personnel: Thomas Chapin: alto and sopranino saxophones, flute; Mario Pavone: bass; Michael Sarin: drums.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.