The trombone/baritone saxophone combination has a sparse but storied history. Probably the most well-known collaboration is the one between Gerry Mulligan and Bob Brookmeyer. Brookmeyer took Chet Baker’s place in Gerry’s quartet and they made some fantastic music together from the mid-1950’s to the mid 60’s. Curtis Fuller recorded ‘Bone and Bari’ for Blue Note with Tate Houston on baritone in 1957, but it was never a working group. Pepper Adams and Jimmy Knepper had the cleverly named ‘Pepper- Knepper Quintet’ which recorded once in 1958. To explore the common range and timber of the baritone sax and trombone combination, we created TromBari and our ‘book’ has expanded on this combination. Gigging with TromBari has provided a unique opportunity to draw on music from early swing to free jazz and beyond using various instrumentations. We sometimes call the group on this CD “Devil’s Hopyard” when
we gig, so hopefully that’s confusing enough for you.
Bassist Chris Nolte and Drummer Josh Hunt were both students in the University of Illinois Jazz program, where Jim and I now both teach, and have gone on to
professional jazz/music careers. They made a vital contribution to this project. Our strings, Dorothy Martirano on violin, Tomeka Reid on cello and Armand Beaudoin on bass/cello brought their own interpretations to the songs and Tom’s music would not have been realized without their musicality and improvisatory skills. We were also very fortunate to feature Matt Plaskota on a myriad of percussion instruments. I know Tom would have dug this addition
The first time I heard Thomas Chapin’s recording, Haywire, I was immediately struck by the juxtaposition of the raw beauty of the strings with Tom’s working trio and the maniacal-yet-tender compositions. The music has an almost folk-like or classical feel at times but the free jazz bubbling underneath rises to the surface at regular intervals and keeps the listener (and the players) alert and involved. It’s been a great pleasure adapting the music for our instrumentation. Each time we perform this music in concert, listeners are captivated by the vitality, humor and presence of the tunes.
Haywire is a fast tune with time and feel changes that features Dorothy and Tomeka’s funk duet in 10/4 before the song bursts into some free jazz improvisation with Jim and me. Diva, which was arranged by Tom for his recording, is a beautiful waltz written by Enrico Rava. I think Tom would be
happy with our re-arrangement. The other pieces are combined in The Devil’s Hopyard Suite, inspired by Thomas’ visit to Devil’s Hopyard, “a state park near the east-central Connecticut shore with a definite ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ feel.” The suite’s moods range from eerily spooky (Eidolon – an
apparition created with flute and muted trombone) to explosively intense (Bug Bears – we go nuts on this one). Hoofin’ features my favorite solo of Jim’s on the CD (although they are all great) and Bump in the Night is an improvised trio with Matt, Jim and I. At Peace With My Demons is a perfect way to end the CD and the suite. It features a classical-sounding intro and coda – an exquisite melody by Tom – with a group improvisation in between. In my opinion, this is some of Tom’s most beautiful and creative writing and it’s an honor to be able to record and perform this music. We are gratified that you
get to hear it, or hopefully re-hear it.
Whenever I heard Thomas play, or even on his recordings, I feel his passion for the moment – why he had to play jazz – and I can live the unique experience that occurs each time we play jazz. Tom’s personality and sense of humor coupled with the abandon and sense of risk which poured out every
time he would raise one of his many horns to his lips, brings to mind Shelley Manne’s description of jazz – “we never play anything the same way once.”
Thomas Chapin – Thomas was a great friend and confidante and an early believer in me, as I was in him. Thomas was a unique person in the greatest sense of the word. Although his solos were expressions of freedom and his own personality, his lead alto playing in Paul Jeffrey’s rehearsal band, where we first met in 1979, was squarely in the tradition and exactly what it needed to be. When Tom and I toured with Lionel Hampton’s band, Tom’s solos were always like a possessed bird, flitting above the traditional jazz ground under him, (taking Hamp as far as Tom thought he would go that night), but always connected to the underlying principle of swing. We shared many experiences together in the band. My first trip to Japan and I think Tom’s also, was with Hamp. We visited the Peace Park in Hiroshima together and it affected us both very deeply. Tom named his publishing company Peace Park Publishing.
Tom was a true entrepreneur in music. His first recording session and mine were a month or so apart in 1984. We helped each other figure out what was up. Soon after his recording was finished, Tom showed up at my apartment with a self-produced cassette and showed me the rubber stamps he had made with the title, etc. Shortly after that, he self-published a book of the tunes from the session - all this in the days when cut-and-paste meant scissors and glue. I still have that original cassette and book as well as a rubber stamp he made for my recording, Impasse, later released on Cadence Records. Tom had a child-like sense of wonder, which allowed him to hear the music in all things - an African gong, a new slide whistle or a pill bottle full of dried peas that he just manufactured. A visit to www.thomaschapin.com will provide the story of Tom’s musical history and the illness that took his life on February 13, 1998. Tom reached a musical success most of us could only dream of and he did it by showing us who he really was - and we liked what we saw.