Thomas Chapin Biography

9 March 1957, Manchester, Connecticut, USA, d. 13 February 1998, Providence, Rhode Island, USA. After studying formally at Hartt College of Music, Hartford, Chapin played alto and soprano saxophones professionally with Jackie McLean and others before studying with Paul Jeffrey, with whom he also worked, Ted Dunbar and Kenny Barron. He gained a degree at Rutgers and then played with Lionel Hampton, through the first half of the 80s, including touring Japan and South America, then moved on to Chico Hamilton’s group. A key participant in the New York downtown scene of the 90s, Chapin played in jazz, free jazz and jazz rock bands, including working with Ned Rothenberg, Walter Thompson, Machine Gun, Flamenco Latina, and many others. His eclectic choice of genres and his wide-ranging playing style made it hard to pigeonhole a man whose musical imagination was always reaching out for new challenges. Early in 1997, he was diagnosed with leukaemia thus severely limiting his playing career during the last year of his life.

Despite Chapin’s broad range and his excursions into highly specialized forms of music, he usually managed to retain a high level of accessibility as a performer. He was thus able to attract many admirers through his heady mix of lyricism and brilliantly executed solos. Chapin was also a composer and produced the book, 10 Compositions, published by Peace Park in 1985. In addition to his two principal instruments, Chapin also played flute and two rare members of the saxophone family, the mezzo-soprano and the sopranino. Owing to his recordings, in which he teamed himself with artists such as John Zorn, and his regular trio of Ronnie Matthews (piano), Mario Pavone (bass) and Michael Sarin (drums), it is possible to see that this polished, adventurous and commanding musician was still very much at the height of his powers at the time of his early death.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.