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Jen Chapin’s strong voice enchants audience

CHRIS McGRADY | Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Jen Chapin, the opening act in a two-week series of music, film and theatre based on promoting “Tolerance and Reconciliation,” started off her portion of Spring ARTSfest with a bang. Chapin, who can most accurately be described as a mix of Jewel, Norah Jones and Alanis Morissette with a cause, is an “Urban Jazz” artist from New York. Notre Dame was one of the several stops on her tour of the Midwest. Chapin is a chairperson for the World Hunger Year (WHY), which seeks to rid the world of unnecessary hunger. Chapin uses her musical talent as an apparatus in the development of this program. Appearing on stage in an all-black outfit, Chapin radiated a dark vibe at first sight, but her music proved to be different. Although initially reserved on stage, Chapin warmed up to the audience and performed a series of love songs to open her first set. She mixed many musical genres and layered hints of rock, soul and folk music into the prominently jazz-flavored blend that comprises the majority of her music. Chapin elegantly gave off a feeling of being both playful and sultry. Her music seemed to almost control her at times. Her soulful style of singing was pure and unadulterated, and instead of relying on gimmicks to lure in the audience, she let her voice do the work. A guitar and bass accompaniment were more than enough to produce a rich full sound. Her song “Good at Love” opened with eclectic guitar riffs that captured the audience before Chapin mesmerized the crowd with her beautiful voice. After a brief intermission, Chapin returned to the stage, this time with only the bassist, Stephan Crump. Her music was just as, if not more, captivating at this point than it had been with the guitar accompaniment. With only the bass as a backup her fluid voice rang out just as clearly as before, striking each note with impeccable clarity and accuracy. Guitarist Jamie Fox returned to the stage after this interlude and showcased his impressive vocals, singing with Chapin. Crump, on upright bass, helped to provide a soulful feel to the music. His jazzy riffs were impeccably timed and full of emotion. Fox provided guitar for the trio and was equally impressive. He played beautifully for the entire concert and never missed a note. However, Chapin’s rich voice was more than enough to fill the concert hall. For one song, Chapin even played a guitar of her own and continued to sing just as skillfully as before.Although Chapin played a few older songs from previous albums, she concentrated mainly on songs from her most recent album “Linger,” the title track of which is “Little Hours.” Chapin delighted the crowd by playing two previously unrecorded tracks and provided the audience with background to each one of her songs, which ranged from her playful childhood experiences on Long Island to soulful renditions of her adult love life. The audience got the feeling that Chapin really wrote the music she lived and lived the music she wrote. Chapin could be on the verge of something big. She controlled the audience with her vocal range and talent, and although she does not perform a typical style of mainstream popular music, Chapin has the vocal and lyrical ability to be a star in her genre. Both Crump and Fox have impressive musical backgrounds and provide more than ample talent to accompany Chapin, as if she needed any extra help. In one of her songs, Chapin sang, “I wait to see. Is there anyone out there?” The answer to Jen Chapin is yes, they’re out there – and now they’re listening.