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Jim Chapin

JIM CHAPIN is a New Yorker born and bred. He was a relatively late comer to the drums, taking them up at eighteen after two inconclusive years of college. Jim left William and Mary in early 1938 after having cut classes regularly in order to obey a massive compulsion to batter a set of drums that a classmate had left set up in the gymnasium. Thanks to understanding parents he was allowed to buy a set that spring and in June was fortunate enough to get a summer job in the mountains with an eight piece band called the "Georgia Dons" at the "Purling Palace", a night club. Schedule: seven nights a week, 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., salary $6.00 per week, room and board. That fall, a golden opportunity presented itself, a steady job at a night club in Yonkers called the Red Cap.

Here the salary was a magnificent $9.00 per week, hours 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. weekdays, 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. One had to learn something on jobs like these, if only general survival procedure.
Jim was lucky enough to have excellent instruction almost from the outset. He studied first with Ben Silver of New York and then with the fabled rudimentalist Sanford A. Moeller.
Jim feels that he also was fortunate in that New York in the late '30's was full of fine drummers whose playing was readily available to the ears of the young enthusiast. Jim recalls that during one brief period he heard Gene Krupa and Lionel Hampton with Goodman, Dave Tough with Dorsey and Goodman, Ray Baudac with Bob Crosby, Cozy Cole with Stuff Smith, Jimmy Crawford with Lunceford, Sonny Greer with Duke, Jo Jones with Count Basie, Chick Webb with his own band, Sid Catlett with Louis Armstrong, O'Neill Spencer with John Kirby, Slick Jones with Fats Waller, Arthur Herbert with Pete Brown, Buddy Rich with Joe Marsala, Bunny Berigan and Artie Shaw, Cliff Leemans with Shaw and Charlie Barnett, Razz Mitchell with the Savoy Sultans, Chris Columbus with his own band, Ben Thigpen (Ed's father) with Andy Kirk, J. C. Heard with Teddy Wilson's big band and small band, Zutty Singleton, Tony Spargo, George Wettling and Danny Alvin at Nick's in the Village (incidentally, Nick Rongetti gave Jim his first night club job as leader when he let him bring in a Kansas City styled group on several Monday nights during 1939).

During the period Jim strove mightily to catch up technically with the drummers who had been playing for longer periods. The Goldbetter Rehearsal Studios in the old Roseland Building was the scene of much activity and when sessions weren't in progress Jim would sometimes practice six or eight hours at a stretch, and began to develop from the left hand "shuffle" rhythm, his independent technique. By the beginning of 1940, Jim had worked quite a few jobs and had gathered some much needed experience, and his hands, thanks to Moeller, were excellent. The young "house band" at Goldbetter Studios was an early Basie style band with arrangements by Vie Hunter, that had a wonderful young drummer named Lou Fromm. When Lou left to join Frankie Newton, Jim took over for the few college dates the band did that Spring, 1940. Also Jim worked a couple of dates with Babe Russin's group at the Dancing Campus of the World's Fair before taking a band of his own into a joint on W. 52nd Street known as the Ha Ha Club. The "Street" at this time was primarily a jazz street, but the Ha Ha was the same kind of clip joint one finds there today with the single exception that the female entertainers were "singers" instead of "dancers". The primary duty of the band was to play loud when a customer was presented with the check. Jim stayed until midsummer, then turned the job over to his trumpet player, Roy Stevens, joined the "Music Goes Round And Round" Orchestra of Mike Riley and Ed Farley, and went back to the World's Fair Dancing Campus for the rest of the summer. Gene Krupa, at the peak of his power and popularity that summer, was the featured band for most of the Riley engagement there. Gene, of course, featured fabulous drum arrangements and Jim said that Riley, a great clown, would often walk off the stand, leaving Jim to play a solo, motion the rest of the group to get off too, look at his watch and say, "Play for about ten minutes, kid. Gene'll be back pretty soon". Later that year Jim left Riley to rejoin Babe' Russin for a Miami job at Slapsy Maxie's, that folded in mid February 1941 because of gambling difficulties. That June Jim played a few weeks with Van Alexander and then spent the next six months with Tommy Reynolds, and up-and-coming name at that time. In December '41, Jim decided to get off the road for a while, so he got a job at Child's Paramount with Henry Jerome, who was just starting to change styles from commercial to jazz (a trend he rapidly reversed after the war) and stayed there until Flip Phillips and Larry Bennett persuaded him to join Bennett's group at the Hickory House in early June of '42. Jim had a ball with this small group which, during that year worked as a unit with Wingy Manone in Boston and with Wingy and Mildred Bailey in Georgia before returning to the Hickory House for the spring of '43. By this time, Jim's preoccupation with the "stuttering" left hand was attracting some attention, and Jim and Flip would often carry on a musical Morse Code conversation between Tenor and Snare Drum, Larry was drafted in the summer of '43, so the group dissolved and Jim soon went back with Henry Jerome whose band was now a full-sized roarer, with Billy Bauer on Guitar, Chauncey Welch on Trombone, Charlie Genduso on Trumpet, and jobs at the Pelham Heath Inn, the Lincoln Hotel and Loew's State Theatre. Jim, thanks to Flip, also started rehearsing with Red Norvo's Coca Cola band, a USO idea that never really got off the ground. Jim's draft board got to him about this time, November '43 and in spite of sons aged two and one, shipped him off to Fort Dix where he spent several weeks playing in a band with George Duvivier, George Koenig, and Wild Bill Davison, protected from the horrors of K.P. by Captain Hy Gardner. Finally he was sent to the band at Morris Field, where for a year and a half he fought the battle of Charlotte, N.C., thence to Lake Charles, Louisiana in June '45, where he remained until discharge in November.

These were not overly rewarding years musically, but Jim feels very lucky that at least he had his instrument with him and a good deal of time to practice. He feels that he might not have carried the theory of independent coordination so far had he been engaged in more satisfying and demanding swinging. The winter of '45-'46 was a time of development, and Jim came back to find jazz music irrevocably changed. The skills that he had developed were now something that could be more freely exploited. Characteristically, however, he did little to push himself into the jazz scene and instead took a job at the Arcadia Ballroom that lasted 'til late '46. At this time he joined the closely knit rhythm in the resurgent Casa Loma band. This great section which included Joe Shulman or Barney Spieler, bass, Tommy Morganelli, guitar and Tony Nicoletti, piano, only did about six months with Glen Gray, but Jim stayed on until the band broke up for the first time in December '47. Then, following the sun and close friends to Atlanta, Ga., of all places, he put in one of the least lucrative but happiest periods of his life, playing with bassist Red Woolen and pianist Freddie DeLand, with various horn men up front. Most important, perhaps, he met Lew Swain, an executive of the Ozalid Company, which makes reproduction machines for printed matter. Lew persuaded him to put his long deferred book into final form, and offered help and the use of his machines to publish the book. Returning to New York in September 1948, Jim began to teach at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Modern Music. When he first showed his new book around, he always had to carry drumsticks in his pocket. The frequent comment was "Man, who's gonna play this" (By now, quite a few of the greatest names in drumming have played or are playing it). Jim was always ready to oblige with a concert on newsoapers, knees or car fenders. Jim soon tired of the New York bustle and in the Fail of '49 returned to Atlanta, for a year and two months (just long enough to lose all his New York contacts). This time, he says, some of the playing was the best he had done, and most of it was the worst. Coming North again in February '51. he worked with Barbara Carroll for a while, then went to the Coast for the summer with Tony Pastor, where he did a few dates at the Light?house at Hermosa Beach with Howard Rumsey, Shorty Rogers and Jimmy Giuffre. Meanwhile Red Wootten, by that time with Woody Herman, had Woody get Jim as Sonny Igoe's substitute for four months that Fall. A brief episode with Tommy Dorsey in the early spring of '52, and Jim went back with Tony Pastor in May and stayed 'til November, 1953. Finally getting sick of the "road" Jim organized a sextet for some jobs that never came about, but one Monday night in Birdland in late '53 led to twenty or thirty more over the next four years. Mainstays of the group were Phil Woods, Don Stratton, Sonny Truitt and Chuck Andrus. Frequent participants included Urbie Green, Billy Byers, Johnny Williams and Nat Pierce. Luckily, the group recorded, before disbanding, and many be heard on Classic Jazz Ip C J 6, featuring arrangements by Jim, Phil Woods and Sonny.

In early '54 Jim started teaching at Hartnett National Studios and started also to work some dates for the Lester Lanin office. Later that same year Lanin developed a format for his debutante parties that included a jazz show at some time during the evenings' proceedings. This usually meant that Jim and Jonah Jones would arrive at the party about two A.M., solo furiously for about twenty minutes and then leave, at which time the band would revert to society tempo 'till unconscious. These outbursts were a regular feature of the December and June seasons for several years until Jonah came into his own. Jim also did a few musical shows mainly for Peter Matz, including the "Amazing Adele" an extravaganza that perished after Philly and Boston. Recently Jim has been with Marshall Grant's Trio, a hard to define group that has worked such diverse N. Y. spots as the Maisonette of the St. Regis, the St. Moritz and the Embers. Jim describes it whimsically as a "hard-bop society" group. Jim has a particular taste for the locales that Marshall picks:Southampton, L, I. in the summer, and Palm Beach in the winter. With the "name" bands he says it was always Memphis in July and Montreal in February.

He has three or four more books in the works but admits to a vast inertia that prevents his copying them in final form. He does say however, that the next one contains more work than any ten drummers could complete in a lifetime, but that an amateur would find it very helpful too. We have managed to corral Jim long enough to prepare a second album devoted to drummers entitled, "For Drummers Only". This will contain a half dozen or so songs usually arranged for drum highlights, as well as a series of brass figures written by Jim for exploring the possibilities of drum punctuations against a big band brass section. A complete drum part will naturally be issued with this album, a must for every drummer.

In 1948 Jim Chapin first confounded the profession by passing out to his friends the pilot fifty copies of book volume I. Young players, while whipping through the exercises, may find it strange to learn that in that pre-historic era the book was greeted with resentment in some quarters, and even called "impossible." There was a basis for this. At that time no ace but Jim could play more than a token bit of what has now become the classic style of independence. "The Times They Are A'Changing." Since then several generations of conscientious drummers have "paid their dues with the book and it is now the classic, much-imitated, standard work on the subject.

Jim's relationship to Coordinated Independence (his phrase) is roughly analagous to that of Robert Fulton to the steamboat. Jim didn't invent the cymbal rhythm (Fulton didnt invent the boat), nor did he invent the "rhythmic melodies" of jazz. These reached a new plateau in the "bop" era, with the inspired reactions of Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, and Art Blakey, to the music of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, along with other less renowned contributors. (Fulton didn't invent the steam engine.) Jim's achievement was in fusing the two elements into a wockable technology that solved mechanical problems, unlocked doors, and pointed new directions.

It is interesting to speculate on how much this book has influenced the techniques and esthetics of jazz playing in the past-bop era. As a matter of fact, the last sections of this book seem to anticipate, more and more as time goes by, facets of the most modem of the rock playing. This hardly seems accidental, and to emphasize this, and to make the book more currently useful in rock, Jim is adding the following suggestions for further studies in this area, He doesnt want to change the book in other respects, as he believes that keeping the foibles and anachronisms of a period, as well as the virtues, provides a charming glimpse of a less sophisticated past, plus a valuable hint as to roots (Even something frankly archaic, like the subtitle " - as applied to Jazz and Be-Bop.") His attitude may be colored by the success of his two-decade dream, the monumental Volume II, "Independence - The Open End an extraordinary and wide-ranging achievement...

Jim Chapin was born in New York City in 1919. His father was James Ormsbee Chapin, an artist of the American Scene style of painting and his mother was Abigail Forbes Chapin, a teacher and writer.

He did not begin playing the drums until he was 18 years old, after being inspired by legendary drummer, Gene Krupa. Jim studied with Sanford Moeller, upon the advice of Krupa, and within a short time he was playing opposite Gene at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City.

In the early 1940s, Jim began working on a drum instruction book that was eventually published in 1948 as Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, Volume I, Coordinated Independence as Applied to Jazz and Be-Bop. Shortly thereafter, Jim 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! Advanced Techniques, which is now known simply as "The Chapin Book", became the most important drum set text ever written and is still in print today. It was recognized in 1993 by Modem Drummer magazine as one of the top 25 drum books of all time. All of the great drummers in the past nearly 50 years have paid their dues with this book that is the much-imitated, standard work on the subject. In 1971, Jim published Advanced Techniques for the Modem Drummer, Volume II, Independence-The Open End, a monumental undertaking that utilizes overlays to illustrate its complex points. In the preface of this work, Jim admits that even he cannot play every pattern that is presented, thus getting him off the hook of having to pull out his sticks on demand to prove that everything printed can actually be played! Volume II was ahead of its time 25 years ago and is modern today.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, Jim performed and toured with a variety of bands, including Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra and groups led by the likes of Mike Riley, Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey and Tony Pastor. He also performed on occasion with his sons, Tom, Steve and the late Harry Chapin who was one of the top singer-songwriters of the 1970s and a founding member of the World Hunger Year. And he has led his own groups for the past 20 years.

In the early 1960s, Jim wrote a musical play entitled "Passing Fair". Unfortunately, the interracial themes of the production did not jibe with the racial climate in the country at the time and the work was never produced. However, two of the songs presented on the CD "Songs-Solos-Stories" ("Carny Days" and "Love And Laughter") are from the play.

In the past 10 years, Jim has found a second career, as he has been "discovered" by a new generation of musicians that hunger for the depth of knowledge he possesses on drummers and drumming. He spends the majority of his time traveling around the world teaching and presenting seminars and he is a fixture at music trade shows and percussion conventions. In 1994, he received two honors for his contributions to music and education. One was the American Eagle Award, presented by the National Music Council and the other was bestowed by the Berklee College of Music.

Because of his staying power. Jim is taken for granted. Through times of "here today-gone tomorrow" artists, he has always been there. During the past 55 years, he has observed, studied and analyzed every great (and not so great) drummer. He was there almost from the beginning of modern drum set playing and that will never happen again. He is a master student in addition to being a master teacher and at 75 years of age. Jim epitomizes the most important quality necessary for longevity in the music business: he will not grow old!

What can you say about a guy like Jim Chapin? His credits include Tommy Dorsey, the Jim Chapin Sextet, Simon and Garfunkel, and his two method books, Advanced Techniques For The Modem Drummer Volumes 1 and 2. Even though Chapin's first book was released in 1948 it is still a widely used text. In talking to Chapin, you quickly learn that his knowledge and passion for drums is remarkable.

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