Stephanie Castillo’s newest film highlights life of late jazz musician

BROOKLYN — After reading an obituary for a legendary jazz musician, Stephanie Castillo said she was inspired to produce a film about his life.

“I knew Thomas Chapin played music, but I didn’t know who he was in the world of jazz until he died,” she said. “Then I read a big obituary and I said, ‘Oh wow, he was somebody. Maybe I’ll make a film about him.’ I kept that in the back of my mind.”

Chapin, who emerged on the jazz scene in the 1980s and rose to fame in the 1990s, was one of a few artists of his generation to participate in the city’s downtown experimental scene and its uptown world of traditional jazz.

He died in 1998 after suffering from leukemia.

Castillo, a filmmaker and Kauai native, highlights Chapin’s life in her newest documentary, “Night Bird Song: The Incandescent Life of Thomas Chapin,” which was completed last year.

The film will be screened at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City today, followed by a question and answer session.

Castillo said her team had been trying to get in contact with the people at the venue since April 2016. They were contacted in November by an employee who watched the film and fell in love with it.

“The education director (Seton Hawkins) was a fan of Thomas Chapin. He said he’d been told three times in one week about the film,” Castillo said. “The Lincoln Center has an adult education and jazz program, and the students wanted to see more documentaries that would expand their knowledge of the history of jazz.”

The documentary has already been shown at festivals on the Mainland and in Europe.

The film also won the Best Story Award at an international film festival in Nice, France, last year.

On Kauai, the film was shown during the Jazz Festival at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in February and at the Garden Island Film Festival last year.

“I was there for the screenings. It was wonderful to being it to my home islands,” Castillo said. “My family is from Kapaa, and I’m very proud to bring to Kauai.”

It took about four years to complete the film. Castillo raised money and filmed in five locations in the U.S. and four in Europe. It took about eight months to edit the two-and-a-half-hour film.

Castillo, who lives in Brooklyn, hopes those who attend the screening will learn something new.

“There was a strong jazz scene in New York, and the audience will see that side of the story of jazz and feel like it’s a much more complete picture for them,” she said. “It was another inventive stage for jazz.”

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