Friday, October 16, 2015

Listening to Prestige Part 150: Jim Chapin

Even if you're a pretty serious jazz fan, you may never have heard of Jim Chapin. He played with the Casa Loma Orchestra, with Woody Herman and Tommy Dorsey, and with Flip Phillips at New York's Hickory House, but he only made one recording as a leader: this ten-incher on Prestige, which Prestige or its successors never reissued in any other format, although it was included, with another short session, on a 12-inch LP that was released in 1977 on the Classic Editions label. Both LPs are extremely rare, and I wasn't able to listen to them, which makes it hard to justify including this session in a blog called "Listening to Prestige."

But if you're a musician, particularly a drummer, you've heard of Jim Chapin, as perhaps the greatest of all teachers of jazz drumming. His textbook,  Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, Volume I, Coordinated Independence as Applied to Jazz and Be-Bop, published in 1948, is still considered the gold standard in its field., and he followed it three decades later with Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, Volume II, Independence–The Open End.  According to his obituary in Drum Magazine (Chapin died in 2009). "Independence," in Chapin's terminology, meant making one hand independent of the other. As he described it,
"Pianists and organists as far back as Bach had used independence to play a line with one hand and a counter-line with the other," Chapin says. "So why did drummers have to play everything hand-to-hand?"
The book's importance was recognized as soon as it was first published.
His exercises and concepts caused such a stir among drummers that he had to have a pair of drumsticks in his back pocket at all times in case he was called upon to demonstrate a particularly difficult passage and to prove that he truly could play every pattern in the book. 
Who benefitted from what came to be known as the Chapin book?  You'd best believe there were a few. Max Roach for one: "He beat a lot of drummers up with that book. We were all stumbling on it. But he made a significant contribution to conceptualizing what the drumset is all about, explaining it so clearly in his book."

Chapin, like Mike Cuozzo, moved away from the demands of the road and the jazz life to raise a family. In later years, he would play some gigs with his sons Tom and Harry, as they made their mark in the music world.

I'm hoping to find the sextet album, still. It features some wonderful musicians, including Phil Woods. Meanwhile, here's one of his instructional videos:

And here is the man, in his 80s, on the drums:

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