Thomas Chapin

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Thomas Chapin (March 9, 1957 – February 13, 1998) was an American composer and saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist. Though primarily an alto saxophonist, he also played sopranino, as well as soprano, tenor, baritone saxes and flute. Many of his recordings as a leader were in a trio with bassist Mario Pavone and drummer Michael Sarin. Chapin studied with Jackie McLean , Paul Jeffrey , and Lionel Hampton. He died of leukemia three weeks before his 41st birthday. He played at a benefit concert two weeks before his death.


Chapin was born on March 9, 1957, in Manchester, Connecticut. He attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts where he studied classical music and jazz. In the late 1970s he attended the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, studying with saxophonist Jackie McLean. In 1980 he graduated from Rutgers University where he studied with saxophonist Paul Jeffrey, pianist Kenny Barron and guitarist Ted Dunbar. From 1981 to 1986 he toured with Lionel Hampton as lead saxophonist and musical director. He performed with Chico Hamilton's band from 1988 to 1989.

In the late 1980s he formed quartets, quintets, and a band and album devoted to Brazilian music, Spirits Rebellious (Alacra). He founded Machine Gun with guitarist Robert Musso and a trio with bassist Mario Pavone and drummers Steve Johns and later Michael Sarin. In 1994 the trio performed at Madarao Jazz Festival in Japan, where he also played with Betty Carter, and at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1995. He formed larger groups (Trio with Brass, Insomnia, Haywire, and Trio with Strings) and performed with Ray Drummond, Anthony Braxton, Tom Harrell, Sonny Sharrock, John Zorn, Walter Thompson, Dave Douglas, Marty Ehrlich, and Ned Rothenberg. He recorded over fifteen albums as a leader.

Chapin died of leukemia in 1998 at the age of forty.[1]


As leader and co-leader[edit]

Musicians Album Label Date Format
George Alford, Peter McEachern, Phil Buettner, Nick Makros, Lucian Williams, Mario Pavone, Emmett Spencer, Matt Emerzian Bell of the Heart Alacra 1005 recorded and released 1981 LP
Ronnie Mathews, Ray Drummond, John Betsch et al. Radius MuWorks 1005; US recorded 1984, released 1990 CD, LP, CS
Machine Gun (Robert Musso/Thomas Chapin/John Lunar RIchey/Jair–Rohm Parker Wells/Bil Bryant) + Sonny Sharrock/Karl Berger Live at CBGB's Vol. 1 : June 2, 1987 MuWorks 37 CR; US released 2008 CD
Francesca Vanasco, Saul Rubin, Thad Wheeler, Geoffrey Gordon Spirits Rebellious Alacra 1017; US recorded and released 1988 LP
Motation (Mario Pavone, Michael Musillami, Thomas Chapin, Peter McEachern, George Sovak, Mike Duquette) Live at the Hillside Alacra 1014; US recorded 1988, released 1989 LP
Machine Gun + Sonny Sharrock Machine Gun Muworks 1001; US recorded and released 1988 CD, LP, CS
Machine Gun + Sonny Sharrock Live at the Gas Station: December 3, 1988 MuWorks 46 CR; US released 2008 CD
Machine Gun + Sonny Sharrock Open Fire MuWorks 1003; US recorded and released 1989 CD, LP, CS
Machine Gun Live from the Court Tavern: February 24, 1990 + December 8, 1990 MuWorks DR 03; US released 2008 DVD
Thomas Chapin Trio with Mario Pavone, Steve Johns Third Force KnitWorks 103; US recorded 1900–1991, released 1991 CD
Machine Gun Live From the Webo Art Space: September 22, 199 MuWorks DR 01; US) released 2008 DVD
Thomas Chapin Trio with Mario Pavone/Steve Johns Anima KnitWorks 121 B; US recorded 1991, released 1992 CD, CS
Thomas Chapin & Borah Bergman Inversions MuWorks 1009; US recorded and released 1992 CD, CS
Machine Gun Pass the Ammo MuWorks 1011; US recorded and released 1992 CD, LP, CS
William Hooker Crossing Points NoBusiness LP 30/31; Lithuania recorded 1992, released 2011 2–LP set
William Hooker Crossing Points NoBusiness CD 28; Lithuania recorded 1992, released 2011 CD
Mario Pavone, Michael Sarin + Brass: Frank London, Curtis Fowlkes, Peter McEachern, Marcus Rojas, Al Bryant Insomnia KnitWorks 132; US recorded 1992, released 1993 CD
Mario Pavone, Michael Sarin Night Bird Song KnitWorks 240; US recorded 1992, released 1998 CD
Ronnie Mathews, Ray Drummond, Steve Johns I've Got Your Number Arabesque 110; US recorded and released 1993 CD
Mario Pavone, Michael Sarin + John Zorn, Vernon Frazer Menagerie Dreams KnitWorks 167; US recorded and released 1994 CD
Tom Harrell, Peter Madsen, Kiyoto Fujiwara, Reggie Nicholson You Don't Know Me Arabesque 115; US recorded 1994, released 1995 CD
Mario Pavone, Michael Sarin Ride: North Sea Jazz Festival 1995 Playscape 71595; US released 2006 CD
Peter Madsen, Kiyoto Fujiwara or Scott Colley, Reggie Nicholson or Matt Wilson Never Let Me Go: Quartets '95 & '96 Playscape 111095; US released 2012 3-CD set
Avantango (Pablo Aslan, Thomas Chapin, Ethan Iverson) Y en el 2000 tambien: Tango & Jazz Epsa 16020; Brazil recorded 1996 CD
Peggy Stern, Thomas Chapin Quartet with Drew Gress, Bobby Previte The Fuchsia Koch 7837; US recorded 1995, released 1997 CD
Mario Pavone, Michael Sarin + Strings: Mark Feldman, Boris Raskin, Kiyoto Fujiwara Haywire: Live at The Knitting Factory 1996 KnitWorks 176; US released 1996 CD
Mario Pavone, Michael Sarin Sky Piece KnitWorks 208; US recorded 1996, released 1998 CD
Borah Bergman Toronto 1997 Boxholder 033; US released 2003 CD

As sideman[edit]

With Machine Gun

  • Machine Gun (MU 1988)
  • Open Fire (Mu New York 1989)
  • Pass the Ammo (MuWorks, 1991)
  • WFMU (MuWorks, 2000)
  • Live at CBGB's Vol 1 06/02/87 (Musso Music, 2007)
  • Live at the Gas Station 12/03/88 (Musso Music, 2007)

With Mario Pavone

  • Sharpeville (Alacra, 1988)
  • Toulon Days (New World/CounterCurrents, 1992)
  • Song for Septet (New World/CounterCurrents, 1994)
  • Dancers Tales (Knitting Factory, 1997)

With others


  • Thomas Chapin. Ten Compositions (sheet music book of original compositions) (Peace Park Publishing/Akasha; US)



  1. ^ Watrous, Peter (1998-02-15). "Thomas Chapin, 40, Raucous Jazz Musician". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-24.

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