Crossing Points is a magical coming together of saxophonist Thomas Chapin and drummer William Hooker. Chapin was a special man and an outstanding musician, who sadly died of leukemia just weeks shy of his 41st birthday in 1998. Chapin's career covered a broad spectrum: he played with Chico Hamilton, and he was also lead alto and musical director for the Lionel Hampton band for a spell, but he was also a major player in the downtown scene in the nineties, especially his legendary trio with Mario Pavone on bass and Michael Sarin / Michael Johns on drums.
Recorded in 1992 at a downtown gallery in New York City, this concert was "burning with enthusiasm and creativity," as Hooker says in the liner notes. All three songs clock in at 20-plus minutes, and all provide dazzling additions to Hooker and Chapin's recording oeuvres. "Addiction to Sound" starts in a field of silence, where you can clearly hear Chapin and the subtleties of his breath, as well Hooker's mesmerizing stick work. The song changes direction as Chapin gets progressively more lyrical and melodic, and then bursts into sonic urgency with long, flurrying lines. It's a powerful, wide-ranging tune that explores many angles and moods. "The Underground Dead" is also a marvel, showcasing the beautiful flutters and folds of Chapin's playing, as well as the unexpected colors and shadings he paints throughout. Hooker and Chapin carry on several conversations at once, exploring many ideas simultaneously as the heat rises from their propulsive energy. This is highly involved and evolved music, both pleasing and invigorating.
The CD's hands-down marvel is "The Subway," a 28-minute high-velocity explosion that captures the crashing and screeching and gritty doings of that great clanking beast, the New York City subway system. This is not a polite journey along Manhattan's East Side; it's one of those long, rollicking rides full of sparks and flashing lights. Hooker's intense, steady cymbal work sounds like the train on its tracks, and Chapin's sax captures the speed and energy and rocking confusion of the ride. This is a vigorous, powerful song, a wonder of sustained energy and mood that will knock you right out of your complacent day.
Accompanying this fine music are thoughtful liner notes by Downtown Music Gallery owner Bruce Lee Gallanter. Let's take a moment to praise Gallanter, whose passion for and devotion to this music has benefited listeners and musicians for a good many years. Gallanter, by the way, was a friend of Chapin's; they worked together on various projects, so it makes sense that Gallanter's voice is part of Crossing Points.
In 1996, two years before he died, Chapin wrote: "The point is to stay awake and alive to what is going on." He certainly practiced what he preached, and as a result this music is as vital now as the day it was created. Chapin lives!
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