By Stephanie J. CASTILLO


Documentary - Completed 2016

Destined to be among the great virtuosos of jazz, Thomas Chapin, an alto sax and flute master, was nearing the pinnacle of his meteoric rise when leukemia took him at the age of 40 in 1998. Though fame and world recognition have eluded him, the film reveals his indelible mark left on jazz.

    • Year of production
    • 2016
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • USA
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • 0 - 0.3 M$
    • Duration
    • 150 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Stephanie J. CASTILLO
    • Writer(s)
    • Stephanie J. CASTILLO, Noel M. IZON
    • Producer(s)
    • Stephanie j. CASTILLO ('Olena Productions), Noel m. IZON
    • Synopsis
    • Destined to be among the great jazz virtuosos, Thomas Chapin was nearing the pinnacle of his meteoric career when leukemia took him at the age of 40. Decades later, his passionate life and incandescent music continues to inspire new generations of artists and musicians.  The new documentary THOMAS CHAPIN, NIGHT BIRD SONG draws an intimate portrait of a musical explorer who transcended the boundaries of jazz and  dissolved the distinctions between sound and music.

      From his early days in jazz school as a young prodigy, to his formative years with big-band showman Lionel Hampton, and then to his immediate success with his own “power” jazz trio, it is clear that master flute player and alto sax man Thomas Chapin was ahead of his time. According to music critics and musicians who played with him, no one since the 80’s and 90’s when he lived has bent the genre of jazz the way he did or has emerged with the innovative originality that he played with.

      Who was Thomas Chapin, where did he come from, and where was he going? This intimate, 90-minute documentary will unfold his fascinating story, beginning with his rapid ascent as a jazz artist and as the Thomas Chapin Trio enters the wildly inventive, experimental days of music during the 1980‘s and the 1990‘s when the “downtown scene” of New York City exploded with artists who were pushing the music and bending genres. The journey thought his incandescent life and music will mesmerize and inspire.

      EMMY director Stephanie J. Castillo captures Chapin’s story through photographs, archival footage, his music and insights from the musicians, family members and jazz writers who followed Chapin’s career through its ascent and then through his decent into an illness that brought him to an abyss of despair and to, as Chapin described it, “the realm of the miraculous.” Just as he had transcended the boundaries of jazz and music, Chapin would prove that life itself is to be transcendent even if it had to end too soon.

      At this time in jazz, there was a schism -- between the traditional and the avant-garde, between what was known as the uptown and the downtown camps of jazz. NIGHT BIRD SONG will show how Chapin made no distinctions in the music as he freely moved between both camps and bridged the gap. Rare in this way for his day, Chapin became known an ambassador from the downtown to the uptown and was called “a centerpiece” and a powerful force despite the schism.

      This two-hour documentary film seeks to honor the music and memory of Thomas Chapin which, after more than 15 years since his death, is in danger being relegated to the footnotes of jazz.

      For more information on the film, go to and watch the trailer.

Distribution Country
Release date
Local title
Company Country Roles