Alto saxophonist and flautist, Thomas Chapin was born in 1957 in Manchester, Connecticut. He attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts where he studied classical music and jazz. He began his serious studies in the late 1970s, attending Hartt College in Connecticut, studying with saxophonist Jackie MacLean. In 1980 he graduated from Rutgers University where he studied with saxophonist Paul Jeffrey, pianist Kenny Barron and guitarist Ted Dunbar. From 1981 to 1986 he toured with the jazz grand master Lionel Hampton as lead saxophonist and musical director of the band. He also performed with Chico Hamilton’s band from 1988 to 1989.
In the late 1980s he formed his own groups, most notably a trio with bassist Mario Pavone and drummers Steve Johns and later, Michael Sarin. For nearly ten years Chapin pursued his own music, working with the Thomas Chapin Trio at festivals and clubs around the world, and also arranging larger groups. And he spent a good deal of his time working with the more important names in various factions of jazz. He performed with Ray Drummond, Anthony Braxton, Tom Harrell, Sonny Sharrock, John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Marty Ehrlich , Ned Rothenberg and many more.
Over his career he recorded fifteen albums, including Sky Piece and Night Bird Song, the last releases with his trio. Thomas Chapin died of leukemia in 1998 at age forty. The New York Times called him “one of the more exuberant saxophonists and bandleaders in jazz” and “one of the few musicians to exist in both the worlds of the downtown, experimentalist scene and mainstream jazz.”