“Menagerie Dreams” by Thomas Chapin Trio (Knitting Factory Works 167)

©Laurence M Svirchev

Menagerie Dreams is a barn-yard affair with squawking chickens, honking  hogs, and swaggering monkeys boozing it up. The Chapin Trio (Mario Pavone, bass; Michael Sarin, drums) form a frenetic company, playing with an abandon that threatens to tip them right over the musical edge. But they never lean too far past the fulcrum point: everything they do swings like it came from easy street.

Take A Drunken Monkey. The monkey starts off calmly enough with a dark arco riff from Pavone and Sarin rolling sticks on skins. Chapin’s melodic line creates a dance whose tempos incessantly increases. Sarin enhances the feeling with a rhythm on the toms that is broken only occasionally with a shot on the high hat. Like the monkey, the music may be intoxicated, but it is never out of control.

Chapin is a marvellous interpreter of Daydream (Strayhorn-Ellington). Pavone walks the bass line with a country-mile cadence and Chapin makes his entrance with some squealing back-woods ya-hoos. The whole tune seems to bit of a parody on the velvety-smooth approach that Johnny Hodges would take. Chapin knows his Hodges, but it is equally clear he dreams different dreams than the Rabbit.

With the addition of poetry by Vernon Frazer and a guest appearance on two cuts by altoist John Zorn, this is an energy filled, spinny CD that makes one long to see Chapin live again on the West Coast.

Originally published in 5/4 Magazine Seattle, 1996

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