New Documentary to Tell Tragic Story of Talented Saxophonist Thomas Chapin

By Thomas Swan | Mar 01, 2016 09:17 PM EST

A new documentary, titled Night Bird Song, about the troubled life saxophonist/flutist Thomas Chapin will make its world premiere this month at the Real Art Ways in Hartford, Ct, on March 6 at 2 p.m. and at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan on March 13. Four years in the making, the documentary traces Chapin's ascendancy to the top and his crash and the tragedy of his death due to leukemia at the age of 40.

Chapin's tragedy has a comparable story, that of jazz musician Jaco Pastorius, both immense talented and both had bitter ends to their lives. From DownBeat online, "Both made a profound impact on musicians and fans alike-albeit Pastorius was operating in a larger arena with Weather Report and his Word of Mouth big band-and both left far too soon. Pastorius, who struggled with bipolar disease in his final years, was murdered in 1987 at age 35. Chapin lost his fight with leukemia in 1998 at age 40."

The film is directed by Stephanie Castillo. The film chronicles Chapin's rise from the New York club scene to his ascendancy at the top of the European jazz scenes. According to the project's website, the film was funded by its raising of $50,000 on Kickstarter. The true heartbreak so say the filmmakers is that of the unfullfilled potential. For director Castillo, that talent had yet to find a bottom. From the film's press release, "Destined to be among the great virtuosos of jazz, Thomas Chapin was nearing the pinnacle of his meteoric rise when leukemia took him in 1998 at the age of 40. He started his career as band manager and lead alto sax for big band leader Lionel Hampton, and then went on to form his own trio. Though fame and world recognition have eluded him despite the enduring mark he left on jazz in the '80s and '90s, his passionate life and incandescent music remain unforgettable to fans who knew him."

The film sounds well worth a look.

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