Thomas Chapin

Last updated
Thomas Chapin
Thomas from Brooklyn days.jpg
Born(1957-03-09)9 March 1957
Died13 February 1998(1998-02-13) (aged 40)
Education Hartt College of Music
Alma mater Rutgers University, Music (BA)
  • Musician
  • composer
Terri Castillo Chapin
(m. 1997)
Musical career
  • Saxophone
  • Flute
Years activec.1975–1998
Formerly of
Website Official website

Thomas Chapin (March 9, 1957 February 13, 1998) was an American composer and saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist. His music spanned the full range of 20th century creative music, from his time as Lionel Hampton's bandleader to modern jazz and his own avant-garde explorations. He helped create the Knitting Factory scene in New York City in the early 80's and was the first artist signed to Knitting Factory Records. [1] 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, Kenny Barron, and Lionel Hampton. He died of leukemia at age 40. He played at a benefit concert two weeks before his death. [2]



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. He played frequently in the Hartford and Amherst, Massachusetts areas until moving in 1980 to Brooklyn, New York with fellow musicians Dave Phillips and George Kormendi. He studied at Rutgers University with saxophonist Paul Jeffrey, pianist Kenny Barron, and guitarist Ted Dunbar. He graduated from Rutgers in 1980. 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. [3]

Chapin died of leukemia in 1998 at the age of 40.


As leader and co-leader

George Alford, Peter McEachern, Phil Buettner, Nick Makros, Lucian Williams, Mario Pavone, Emmett Spencer, Matt EmerzianThe Bell of the HeartAlacra 1005recorded and released 1981LP
Ronnie Mathews, Ray Drummond, John Betsch et al.RadiusMuWorks 1005; USrecorded 1984, released 1990CD, LP, CS
Machine Gun (Robert Musso/Thomas Chapin/John Lunar RIchey/Jair–Rohm Parker Wells/Bil Bryant) + Sonny Sharrock/Karl BergerLive at CBGB's Vol. 1 : June 2, 1987MuWorks 37 CR; USreleased 2008CD
Francesca Vanasco, Saul Rubin, Thad Wheeler, Geoffrey GordonSpirits RebelliousAlacra 1017; USrecorded and released 1988LP
Motation (Mario Pavone, Michael Musillami, Thomas Chapin, Peter McEachern, George Sovak, Mike Duquette)Live at the HillsideAlacra 1014; USrecorded 1988, released 1989LP
Machine Gun + Sonny SharrockMachine GunMuworks 1001; USrecorded and released 1988CD, LP, CS
Machine Gun + Sonny SharrockLive at the Gas Station: December 3, 1988MuWorks 46 CR; USreleased 2008CD
Machine Gun + Sonny SharrockOpen FireMuWorks 1003; USrecorded and released 1989CD, LP, CS
Machine GunLive from the Court Tavern: February 24, 1990 + December 8, 1990MuWorks DR 03; USreleased 2008DVD
Thomas Chapin Trio with Mario Pavone, Steve JohnsThird Force KnitWorks 103; USrecorded 1900–1991, released 1991CD
Machine GunLive From the Webo Art Space: September 22, 199MuWorks DR 01; US)released 2008DVD
Thomas Chapin Trio with Mario Pavone/Steve JohnsAnimaKnitWorks 121 B; USrecorded 1991, released 1992CD, CS
Thomas Chapin & Borah BergmanInversionsMuWorks 1009; USrecorded and released 1992CD, CS
Machine GunPass the AmmoMuWorks 1011; USrecorded and released 1992CD, LP, CS
William Hooker Crossing Points NoBusiness LP 30/31; Lithuaniarecorded 1992, released 20112–LP set
William HookerCrossing PointsNoBusiness CD 28; Lithuaniarecorded 1992, released 2011CD
Mario Pavone, Michael Sarin + Brass: Frank London, Curtis Fowlkes, Peter McEachern, Marcus Rojas, Al BryantInsomniaKnitWorks 132; USrecorded 1992, released 1993CD
Mario Pavone, Michael SarinNight Bird SongKnitWorks 240; USrecorded 1992, released 1998CD
Ronnie Mathews, Ray Drummond, Steve Johns I've Got Your Number Arabesque 110; USrecorded and released 1993CD
Mario Pavone, Michael Sarin + John Zorn, Vernon FrazerMenagerie DreamsKnitWorks 167; USrecorded and released 1994CD
Tom Harrell, Peter Madsen, Kiyoto Fujiwara, Reggie Nicholson You Don't Know Me Arabesque 115; USrecorded 1994, released 1995CD
Mario Pavone, Michael SarinRide: North Sea Jazz Festival 1995Playscape 71595; USreleased 2006CD
Peter Madsen, Kiyoto Fujiwara or Scott Colley, Reggie Nicholson or Matt Wilson Never Let Me Go: Quartets '95 & '96Playscape 111095; USreleased 20123-CD set
Avantango (Pablo Aslan, Thomas Chapin, Ethan Iverson)Y en el 2000 tambien: Tango & JazzEpsa 16020; Brazilrecorded 1996CD
Peggy Stern, Thomas Chapin Quartet with Drew Gress, Bobby Previte The FuchsiaKoch 7837; USrecorded 1995, released 1997CD
Mario Pavone, Michael Sarin + Strings: Mark Feldman, Boris Raskin, Kiyoto FujiwaraHaywire: Live at The Knitting Factory 1996KnitWorks 176; USreleased 1996CD
Mario Pavone, Michael SarinSky PieceKnitWorks 208; USrecorded 1996, released 1998CD
Borah BergmanToronto 1997Boxholder 033; USreleased 2003CD

As sideman

With Machine Gun

With Mario Pavone

With others



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  1. Levy, Aidan (2019-04-25). "The Brilliant Life & Tragic Death of Thomas Chapin". JazzTimes. ISSN   0272-572X . Retrieved 2023-03-31.
  2. Watrous, Peter (1998-02-15). "Thomas Chapin, 40, Raucous Jazz Musician". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2018-12-24.
  3. Milkowski, Bill (2016-03-07). "New Documentary Chronicles Life, Death of Thomas Chapin". Downbeat. ISSN   0012-5768 . Retrieved 2023-03-31.