When thinking about the creative improvising musicans whose lives were taken from us way too prematurely it's easy to focus on figures such as Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler, Clifford Brown, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. Maybe it's the sudden and tragic manner by which they departed. Or maybe it's our sad realization that these individuals still had so much more to contribute to the world. All we're left with is: "what if?" and a criminally small discography. How would the jazz genre have changed if these people had lived to old age?
One such musician - someone who died way too young - that I really did not discover until years after their death was sax/flute player Thomas Chapin. Though he was not a giant in the jazz world like the names cited above, to me his death was every bit as painful for all the same reasons. He didn't die under mysterious or suspicious circumstances. He didn't flirt with drugs or alcohol. He did not live a "fast" life. He died of leukemia. He had not reached his forty-first birthday.
He was an inspiring human being who led rather than followed, created rather than maintained and, ultimately, gave rather than took. He put out a string of incredible recordings on the Knitting Factory label in the 1990's (which were posthumously collected in the eight-CD box set ALIVE (my entry point into his music)).
His music was equally compelling whether he played the alto sax or the flute. If you are unfamiliar with his music I urge you to seek out these recordings. And, to nudge you along, the concert you have before you may help to convince you. It's taken from a live performance in 1992 in Mexico (I think). The personnel is as follows: Thomas Chapin - alto sax, flute; Jorge Pardo - tenor & soprano sax, flute; Carlo Morena - piano; Joe Fonda - bass (who we also hear later on, too); Fernando Llorca - drums. Except for Chapin and Fonda the players are completely unknown to me. The playlist goes like this:
1. unknown (19:52)
2. unknown (22:03)
3. unknown (11:32)
4. Cherokee (Ray Noble) 14:06
5. Yesterdays (Jerome Kern) 12:23
Also, here is one of Chapin's recordings that was released on the Arabesque label. It's made up great players who are not in his regular working trio (Mario Pavone on bass and Michael Sarin on drums). It's called You Don't Know Me. The personnel is: Thomas Chapin - Alto & Soprano saxes, flute; Tom Harrell - trumpet; Peter Madsen - piano; Kiyoto Fujiwara - bass; Reggie Nicholson - drums. The playlist is:
1. Izzit? (Chapin) 9:29
2. Kaokoland (Chapin) 6:06
3. Kunene (Chapin) 7:20
4. Opuwo (Chapin) 9:46
5. Namibian Sunset (Chapin) 8:28
6. Kura Kura (Chapin) 5:36
7. Goodbye (Jenkins) 8:19
8. You Don't Know Me (Arnold, Walker) 7:01