Thomas Chapin’s death of leukemia in 1998 hit me hard. It hit the people close to him harder, of course—I knew him only slightly—but it upset me to the point that I could no longer listen to his records. This newly released live recording of the alto saxophonist/flutist’s trio at the 1995 North Sea Jazz Festival is the first Chapin I’ve listened to in eight years. It’s both a sad and happy experience—sad because I’m reminded of our loss, happy because we have a fresh example of this outrageously inventive, spirited musician at his exhilarating best.
He’s joined by the rhythm section with whom he did his best work (bassist Mario Pavone and drummer Michael Sarin) in a set comprised mostly of Chapin’s ticklish originals, plus a rigorous cover of the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride.” Everything that made Chapin great is here: the hard-as-a-diamond sense of swing and relentless drive; his melodic ingenuity and ear for tonal color. Most of all, there was his absolute immersion in the task at hand. No jazz musician was more adept than Chapin at dissolving the barriers separating “downtown” and “uptown.” Ride is a priceless testament to his brilliance.