“Haywire” by Thomas Chapin Trio plus Strings (Knitting Factory Works 174)

©Laurence Svirchev

Thomas Chapin continues to expand his repertoire with the addition of a bass, cello, and violin ensemble to his working trio of Mario Pavone (bass) and Michael Sarin (drums). Recorded in front of a New York audience at the Knitting Factory, the CD consists of a five piece suite called the Devil’s Hopyard and three other compositions where Chapin stares down “false monsters made real only by the imagination.”

Chapin’s music is characterized by its merciless swing, simple and accessible melodic lines that build tension relentlessly. He frequently built a sarcastic self-deprecating sense of humor into his compositions. The addition of the strings expands the sound palette of the basic trio and also provides hilarious musical counterpoint.

Geek Gawking exemplifies the above characteristics. Chapin explains in his liner notes he is not sure if he is gawking or if he himself is the geek, a psychological outlook which explains the see-saw effect of the piece. He voices the composition using sonic extremes, baritone sax at one end and violin at the other, giving the composition an off-kilter lunacy. In one section, violinist Mark Feldman plays pizzicato, while the baritone plays a three-note riff with increasing speed backed by a Michael Sarin mad-cap drum-roll. The speed builds to a tension-point which breaks with a belly-laugh inducing ‘blaat’ from the baritone.

Thomas Chapin’s music on this CD and others has the ambience of an open-air carnival atmosphere that keeps the listener wide-eyed-amazed. He is a magician on saxes and flutes, belonging that strata of musicians who cannot be characterized by simplistic marketing phrases. Buy his CDs, demand he be brought to your favorite club or Festival. This boy is a classic!

Originally published in 5/4 Magazine, Seattle, 1996

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