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Thomas Chapin


Multi-instrumentalist Thomas Chapin was one of the great improvisers to come out of the New York Downtown jazz scene. Though he spent most of his career working within the avant-garde realm, he could just as easily slip into straight-ahead Post Bop. Like most great jazz improvisers after 1970, Chapin would usually combine the two, stretching the chord changes beyond recognition. His unique playing style, combined with his proficiency on both saxophone and flute, make Chapin the closest the 1990s have to an Eric Dolphy-type player. But whereas Dolphy's music was pure concentrated Bop, Chapin went on to explore musical traditions from different parts of the world. His 1996 album Sky Piece bears the influence of his travels to Namibia, featuring the drone of Mario Pavone's bass and Mike Sarin's drums. Chapin's bass flute doesn't dazzle the listener with pyrotechnics; rather, it takes simple motives and slowly develops them in the service of creating a quiet, mysterious mood. Sadly, Sky Piece was to be Chapin's last album; he died of leukemia in 1998.

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