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Night Bird Song

Thomas Chapin

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Album Review

Recorded in 1992, Night Bird Song remained in the can for seven years before Knitting Factory released it in 1999. Thomas Chapin had met an untimely death from leukemia in February 1998 (he was only 40), and this posthumous release was greeted with great enthusiasm by those who were hip to the saxman/flutist's music. It's regrettable that this avant-garde/post-bop recording went unreleased for so long, for Chapin's trio (which included bassist Mario Pavone and drummer Michael Sarin) is inspired, unpredictable, and cohesive throughout the album. Sticking to his own compositions, Chapin favors an inside/outside approach and fluctuates between moments of quiet, AACM-influenced reflection and intensely emotional playing. Chapin's pieces tend to be cerebral and angular and don't go out of their way to be accessible, but they're well worth exploring because the expressive improviser had a lot to say. Whether he's playing the alto sax, sopranino sax, flute, or alto flute, Chapin's restless spirit serves him well throughout Night Bird Song.

Biography

Born: 09 March 1957 in Manchester, CT

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s

The death of Thomas Chapin from leukemia at age 40 was one of those very cruel twists of fate that periodically mark the history of jazz. Unlike the many fine players to die of self-abuse before their time — Charlie Parker and Bix Beiderbecke come to mind — Chapin lived what was, by all accounts, an exemplary life. The fact that he was stricken in his late thirties by a disease that usually targets children is nearly as inexplicable as it is tragic. Fortunately, Chapin left behind an...
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