Friday, September 02, 2016

Monterey Jazz Festival 2016 Brings the Late Thomas Chapin Full Circle Through Documentary Film from 'Olena Media, Chapin Finally "Plays" 20 Years after Canceling Due to Illness

The significance of performing at the Monterey Jazz Festival can not be understated. The longest-running jazz festival in the world features the best of jazz through performance and education. It hosts unparalleled world talent and legends and stands as a legacy to this musical genre, and  impacts future generations of jazz musicians and afficionados alike.
Thomas Chapin Film at the Monterey Jazz Festival

It would have been a momentous milestone for the career of saxophonist-flutist and composer Thomas Chapin and an unforgettable, exhilarating ride for the audience if he had been able to play with his Trio back in 1997. At the peak of his form, he was booked to play for the festival's 40th anniversary.

After standout appearances on other big world jazz stages in New York, Newport, Europe, Japan, and Canada, the Thomas Chapin Trio was ready to play Monterey in the fall of 1997. Regrettably Chapin was forced to cancel after he was diagnosed with leukemia. Thomas Chapin died months later on February 13, 1998 after he cancelled the booking. He was about to turn 41. His star was gaining altitude, rising to the pinnacle of the Monterey Jazz Festival, which would have skyrocketed him into a household name in jazz. Now, 20 years later and through the award-winning film, THOMAS CHAPIN, NIGHT BIRD SONG, this unknown jazz virtuoso will finally come full circle and "play" Monterey.

For his two decades of performing, Chapin was a force, a player with "massive chops," whose sound was sui generis. He had an uncanny gift of melding all forms of jazz into a single body of music. His pathway of moving sound was so multi-directional, yet singular, so original, yet steeped in tradition, that the jazz community struggled to categorize him.   
Peter Watrous of the New York Times captured his extraordinary power and versatility when he described Chapin's performance in 1995: "Chapin … is a virtuoso … also one of the more schooled musicians in jazz, both technically and historically, and for his set he dug into the styles of everyone from Benny Carter to the 60's avant-gardists, screeching and howling and huffing as if this were 1964 and he was breaking the rules of jazz into pieces." 

Aidan Levy, who knew of Chapin and reviewed the film this year for JazzTimes Magazine, wrote that Chapin was "considered by some to have fundamentally expanded the boundaries of the jazz discourse."

Dan Melnick, a concert producer in the 90's with George Wein's Festival Productions and its Newport Jazz Festival spinoffs that the Thomas Chapin Trio performed for, said, "For me and many others, Thomas stood at the center of numerous disparate worlds of jazz at that time. He was a master of all forms of jazz and maybe proved that these 'schools' or 'styles' weren't so different at all."

THOMAS CAPIN, NIGHT BIRD SONG, a 150-minute epic tale of this brilliant and extraordinary jazz master, will be screened at the Monterey Jazz Festival on September 18, 2016, at 4:30 pm in the Jazz Theater.

Emmy-winning filmmaker Stephanie J. Castillo's documentary tells Chapin's story using the intimate details and captivating storytelling of 45 featured musicians, promoters, music critics, friends and family. The film, which has received high acclaim from reviewers and viewers, reveals Chapin's music formation, including his six-year stint as Lionel Hampton's music director and lead alto sax. It goes on to detail Chapin's emergence as a musical force in the late 1980s in the New York downtown jazz scene. Using archival performance film and video footage, the film shows how Chapin's distinct and inimitable style helped move the music forward in the 1990s. 

The film also clearly establishes Chapin as one of the few artists of his generation to exist in both the New York City's downtown experimentalist scene and in the uptown world of traditional jazz. Fearless in his pursuit of creating an edgy, engaging, cutting-edge sound that pushed jazz forward, he was also tireless and passionate in showing his classical and mainstream influences.

Thomas Chapin was an artist who "was his own man," a "free musician," but whose music resonated loudly with the work of reed giants from an earlier age. He met his life's end way too soon, while his dreams still burned bright and his audiences yearned for more. Today, new listeners and young players seeking inspiration are discovering and playing his music. Thanks to the film, Chapin will no longer be a footnote in jazz. His indelible mark will be known for all time. 

In May 2016 in Nice, France, NIGHT BIRD SONG received the Nice International Filmmakers Festival award for Best Story. It was also nominated for Best Director of a Feature Documentary and Best Documentary at the New York City International Film Festival.

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