Never Let Me Go: Quartets '95 & '96 (PSR#111095), is a new three-disc set featuring two late-career performances by saxophonist/composer Thomas Chapin, including his final New York concert before succumbing to leukemia in 1998 at age 40.
Mixed and mastered from original tapes discovered in the private family collection, this special historical release was produced in partnership with Akasha, Inc., the non-profit organization founded in 1999 by Chapin's widow, Terri Castillo-Chapin, to preserve and advance his musical legacy. In addition to the music, the set features liner notes from veteran jazz journalist and broadcaster Brian Morton, exclusive archival photos and remembrances from the musicians who joined him for these shows.
Discs one and two capture Chapin's working quartet of the time, with pianist Peter Madsen, bassist Kiyoto Fujiwara and drummer Reggie Nicholson, performing at Flushing Town Hall in Queens on November 10th, 1995. The group played two selections from You Don't Know Me (Arabesque Records), as well as a wide variety of other material, including Artie Shaw's "Moonray", Thelonious Monk's "Ugly Beauty", Charlie Parker's "Red Cross" and Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman".
Chapin founded this ensemble in the early 90's to explore new harmonic possibilities in his music after years of performing and recording with his highly regarded trio. In addition to this date, they performed regularly around New York, including week-long engagements at Iridium Jazz Club and The Village Gate.
In contrast, the third disc captures the first and only concert ever played by a later quartet featuring Madsen, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Matt Wilson at The Knitting Factory on December 19th, 1996. For what turned out to be his final performance in New York, this ensemble presented extended readings of three new pieces written specifically for its all-star lineup, as well as a version of his well-known composition "Sky Piece" and an arrangement of Roland Kirk's "Lovellevellilloqui".
"They can do just about anything," wrote Peter Watrous in his review of this show for the New York Times, "and Mr. Chapin had the group move from freetime sections to swinging parts that moved with complex harmonies. Mr. Wilson doubled and halved the tempos; the music sounded wonderfully unstable. One piece, a ballad, invoked the Blue Note Label in 1964; Mr. Chapin tore through a composition by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, using a hard, rough tone. He likes heat and velocity, and the music flew by, jammed with notes."
In summing up Chapin's place in jazz history for the eight-disc retrospective Alive (Knitting Factory Works) in 1999, GRAMMY(r) winning jazz critic and author Bob Blumenthal wrote, "An honest appraisal of the universe of improvised music created in the decade of his activity as a bandleader should persuade all but the most doctrinaire that Thomas Chapin was one of the definitive artists of the 1990s. Not the most heavily exposed or fashionable, perhaps; but a musician who got at the emotional and spiritual nub of what jazz is supposed to be about as successfully and consistently as anyone working during the period."