Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thomas Chapin Trio - Ride (Playscape, 2006)

The Thomas Chapin Trio was one of my favorite bands of the 1990's. Their mix of exuberant swinging and free-form excitement was a joy to hear. Sadly, it all ended with Chapin's tragic death from leukemia in 1998. Drummer Michael Sarin and especially bassist and composer Mario Pavone have continued to make excellent music in the intervening years, but this archival release of the Chapin Trio performing line at the North Sea Jazz Festival brings back fond memories of what a truly special band that was. The concert begins with a lengthy performance of "Anima" which shows the band improvising collectively with a near telepathic level of communication and also making way for some excellent solo space, particularly for Sarin who takes an exciting and propulsive drum solo. This lengthy 17 minute performance is a very exciting, edge of your seat performance. "Pet Scorpion" stings like its namesake with a muscular free-ish alto saxophone workout.

"Night Bird Song" puts Chapin's delicate flute on display. Along with Eric Dolphy, Sam Rivers and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Chapin must be considered one of the finest flautists jazz has ever produced. And like Dolphy he took a lot of inspiration from birds and their song. There's a lengthy impressive bass introduction by Pavone here too, filled with dark and meaty sound. Chapin switches back to saxophone for some bluesy soloing on the interior of the song. Sarin takes a very nice swinging drum solo as well before the band comes back in fully with Chapin on saxophone (sopranino?) for a Kirk-like improvisation and then back onto the flute for the ending melody statement. "Aeolus" also brings back the flute for a reflective melody before setting off an an exciting solo flute interlude with spoken effects with a haunting flute and bass section following. "Bad Birdie" and "Changes Two Tires" (the title referring to some touring misadventures) picks the pace back up with Chapin back on saxophone and Pavone and Sarin in strong support. A frenetic improvisation of The Beatles "Ticket to Ride" ends the set to great and well deserved audience applause. This is a wonderful snapshot of one of the finest improvising ensembles of the 1990's and highly recommended to anyone interested in improvised music.

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