A few years ago, I wrote the following about saxophonist Thomas Chapin in a Wall Street Journal piece:
The standard bird’s-eye view of New York’s jazz scene in the 1980s and ’90s depicts a mainstream revival of 1960s tradition, a wild and woolly downtown, and nothing in between. The truth on the ground was more fluid. There were musicians—some experienced, others on the rise—whose deep knowledge of tradition, engaging manner, exalted skills and adventurous spirit naturally bridged such divides.
Thomas Chapin fit that bill.
But Chapin died of leukemia on Feb. 13, 1998, three weeks shy of his 41st birthday. We’ll never know quite where his music was headed. Still, we can learn more about what gave rise to Chapin’s artistry and what it suggests for the future.
In that regard, I’ve been following the development of Stephanie Castillo’s documentary, “Night Bird Song: The Thomas Chapin Story.” (You can see some of it here.)