The Feb. 22 edition of The Kitchen Sink of Jazz featured some music of Thomas Chapin and an interview with his brother, Ted, who discussed the legacy of his younger brother as well as the documentary “Thomas Chapin, Night Bird Song” by Emmy-winning filmmaker Stephanie J. Castillo.
Go here for the interview.
To view a trailer of the film, click here.
Partially inspired by the legendary Rashaan Roland Kirk, Chapin, who was equally adept on alto saxophone and flute, grew up in Manchester and began playing Hartford-area clubs as a teen.
His focus on studying music began at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music where Chapin studied with the renowned alto player Jackie MacLean. He gained his degree from Rutgers University’s Livingston College where he was mentored by tenor player Paul Jeffrey who was an assistant professor and also led the Hartt School’s jazz ensemble from 1975-83.
As a performer, Chapin was unique, bringing traditional jazz and improvisational avant garde together in a high-energy style, not common during the 1980s and 1990s when he was active in the recording studio and on stage.
Chapin died of leukemia in 1998, less than a month before his 41st birthday. His final release was the posthumous Night Bird Song — featuring bassist Mario Pavone and drummer Michael Sarin — which came out in 1999, despite being recorded during a pair of sessions in New York City in 1992.
While primarily working with trios as a bandleader, Chapin was a trusted sideman for the likes of Lionel Hampton — he was the vibraphonist’s band director for six years; drummer Chico Hamilton; and horn men Anthony Braxton, John Zorn and Marty Ehrlich. In the late 80s, he formed Machine Gun, a quintet with guitarist Robert Musso, which released a handful of recordings and often featured guitarist Sonny Sharrock.
Chapin was the first artist signed to the Knitting Factory label which released five of his works.
It took Castillo four years to make “Thomas Chapin, Night Bird Song” a reality. The 150-minute film features 40-plus interviews with luminaries from the jazz world as well as former bandmates, family and friends of Chapin and archival footage of Chapin in concert.
Ticketholders to the film will be able to attend a concert at Real Art Ways that follows featuring The Thomas Chapin Brass Music, conducted by Dave Ballou and featuring former Chapin bandmates Pavone and Sarin. Ehrlich, Peter McEachern, Tony Malaby, Art Baron, Ben Stapp and Nick Roseboro round out the line-up.