Chris Fagan’s jazz education began under the mentorship of Bobby Bradford in the early 80’s when he attended Pomona College in Claremont California, a once fertile jazz colony that boasted the likes of James Newton, Arthur Blythe, and David Murray. Shortly thereafter, Fagan began snapping up local jazz gigs, and teaming up with heavyweight Los Angeles jazz talents such as Carl Burnett, Bob Maize, and Billy Childs. Fagan appeared at Claremont McKenna College’s Becket Jazz Festival with bassist Scott Colley and veteran drummer Dick Berk in 1984. During this period, Fagan also studied with modern post-bop vibes virtuoso, Charlie Shoemake and the noted avant-garde clarinetist John Carter, relationships that foreshadowed Fagan’s lifelong pursuit of jazz on all sides of the musical spectrum.
After graduation from Pomona in 1985, Fagan spent a brief period in Washington DC appearing in funk bands throughout Northeast Washington. Fagan moved to New York City in 1986 after receiving an NEA jazz grant to study with tenor sax giant, David Murray. Fagan’s time with Murray consisted more of filling in at rehearsals for absent members of the David Murray Octet and Big Band, and reading through hand-copied original compositions from Murray’s library rather than traditional music lessons. A highpoint for Fagan was sitting in at the Village Vanguard with the David Murray Quartet which featured John Hicks, Ray Drummond and Ed Blackwell. Fagan then began a freelance career in New York which would span nine years and include playing jazz and Latin music in small ensembles and big bands with names as diverse as Jack McDuff and Dave Douglas. As a member of the Bill Warfield Big Band, Fagan regularly appeared with Rich Perry, Andy Fusco, and a number of other alumni from the Buddy Rich, Mel Lewis and Woody Herman big bands.
In 1991, Fagan recorded his first CD entitled Lost Bohemia with mentor Bobby Bradford on cornet, Andrew Cyrille on drums, and Reggie Workman on bass, which was released on Open Minds Records of Germany. The album features original and standard compositions that walk the line between free and modern post-bop jazz. Later that year, Fagan moved to Amsterdam to guest teach jazz saxophone at Sweelinck Conservatory. In Europe, Fagan became a regular on the jazz scene touring with European and American expatriate jazz players.
Fagan returned to New York in 1992 and spent another three years as a freelancer before moving to Seattle in1995. In Seattle, Fagan again pursued gigs on all sides of the musical spectrum, appearing with his own jazz quartet, and as sideman for others such as Brian Nova and Jay Thomas. Fagan appeared with rock legend, Steve Miller at Seattle’s Experience Music Project and Marymoore Park. Fagan also began a collaboration with lifelong friend and New York tenor player Tim Armacost, playing concerts on the West Coast. In 1997, Fagan released his second CD, a modern post-bop album called Signs of Life with fellow New York alumni Brian Kirk and Chuck Bergeron, and local piano talent, Jon Hansen. Fagan went on to participate in the highly original jazz collective Big Neighborhood which released two CDs called Neighbors and 11:11 which explore innovative ensemble writing and euphoric improvisations in a wide range of musical environments that make use of counterpoint, non-standard time signatures and rhythms.