See Jake Chapman Vibe Out on a Sidewalk or Screen Near You

(Photo: Courtesy of Jake Chapman, Graphic: Chase Manze)

(Photo: Courtesy of Jake Chapman, Graphic: Chase Manze)

A snapbacked post-beat with a John Bonham mane, a Zappa handle-stache, and mallets emerged from the shadows of a repurposed warehouse on some Thursday night in Gowanus, Brooklyn. At first I thought it was J.C. resurrected. I was right, sort of.

J.C.—Jake Chapman, CC ’16—isn’t the messiah. But he’s got a godly touch on an instrument whose name suits his aesthetic so well that the match seems divined. Jake plays the vibraphone. If you’re hip, you call them vibes. And Jake (Instagram handle chappymilkshake) has a helluva vibe going for him.

After bumping to his quintet’s set at ShapeShifter Lab on that Thursday night in Gowanus, I chatted with Jake and learned that he’s a Lion, too. Heading back to campus after the show, I thought that it’s not too often we get to play “Where Are They Now?” with recent Columbia alums. So I decided to follow up with J.C. and hear about his time as a Lion and how it’s shaped his vibehood.

Before I get into his story, though, here’s one of his stache caches:

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Stache cache

A post shared by Jake Chapman (@chappymilkshake) on

Now, a portrait of the vibist as a young man.

From Southern California, J.C. started on piano when he was six, but it wasn’t his main passion (get it?).

“I wasn’t a good practicer,” he told me. “It was casual.”

That is, until the day his middle-school band teacher asked if he wanted to play vibes. And he’s been hip ever since.

After attending the Interlochen Arts Camp in 2010, Jake played music through high school and eventually found himself in Morningside Heights. He entered the CC–Juilliard exchange program after his sophomore year, making him the conservatory’s second-ever jazz vibraphonist. With his Juilliard ensembles, he got to play at historic jazz sites like Dizzy’s and Blue Note, dipping way more than his toes into the pool of the NY jazz venues he’s swimming in now.

He was also one of the founders of Jazz House, a still-thriving Special Interest Community at Columbia. The SIC’s frequent campus outings and public performances gave him his start as an outdoor performer, serving him well as a current city busker.

He wrote the music and lyrics for the Varsity Show in his senior year before graduating with a major in Music and a concentration in Comp Sci. And in the fall of his graduating year, he played keys and sang backup vocals for Cale and the Gravity Well, performing festivals in NY and spending time in LA recording an EP. But he wanted to get back to the jazz scene in NY.

J.C.’s return to Jerusalem—er, the scene—started in the summer, when he began playing at Kismat Indian Restaurant regularly (where he has a show coming up—see below) and spent a lot of time busking in Washington Square. His resurrection—sorry, return—to the jazz world also sparked his activity on Instagram, which has become one of his main mounts of performance.

On chappymilkshake you’ll find all kinds of posts—clips of him vibing in Central Park, restful recordings of him jamming over jazz standards, excerpts from his live shows, and the occasional (glorious) stache collage. For a long time, most of his videos were of him busking.

“Busking reflects what I’m about—playing with anyone, for anyone, wherever.”

But you’ll also find what I think is his most impressive and exciting project yet: the “Chappy’s Groove” series (“Hashtag Chappy’s Groove,” he would correct himself at the show I went to). It’s a kind of musical scrapbook—a series of short grooves that he sometimes expands into full-fledged compositions. Here’s the first installment, posted in August of 2018:

Everything here is classic Chappy. Even beyond the drive of the ditty, the meditation-rug wall fixture, the facial fur, the backward cap, and his totally relaxed lean showcase his groove series as entirely his—laid back, hip, and (most of all) groovy. And the style of the tune’s all his own, too. His music tends to be a hybrid of the push and pull of straight-ahead jazz with a new-age ease—a kind of bouncy D’Angelo aesthetic—with the mien and vibe of a long-form zen mantra (which he really goes for in his Marimba Meditation series). Dig what I mean in “Chappy’s Groove 2”:

Whatever label you want to give it, there’s no doubt that Jake’s music feels right. Here’s the most recent of the grooves, which he arranged for a combo to perform at the Washington Heights Jazz Festival just last month (and played with his quintet at the Gowanus show I watched):

Enjoy the handlebar while you can, though. He’s had the face lace a few months now, and it’s a key feature of his Marimba Moe series. But it’s not forever.

“I had a big beard at the end of last year, and I had the idea to record the Mario ‘Overworld Theme’ on Instagram,” he said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, hey, I have a beard. I can shave that and have a mustache like Mario!’” He only intended to keep the bromerang for a few days. “But no, I just kept it… I just kept it,” he said. “It’s a look, and I don’t know exactly how long I’ll keep it.”

J.C.’s followers are no doubt among us. Plenty of people like Jake—driven aesthetes with hip looks and senses of humor—can and do take Comp Sci classes alongside music-theory classes. And they’re not all hiding out in Jazz House. Jake’s just one of many Lions who defy outside stereotypes. Ivy Leaguers can’t busk on the streets! Columbia students don’t have fun! And if they do, they can’t code, too! The horror! Jake does it all, though, never worrying about fitting a mold, whether in academics or in his music.

“I’m really into getting into different scenes—not just jazz. Anything I come up with, I’ll go with it. I’ll run with it.”

Looking ahead, Jake’s hoping to make progress on a record. Of what sort, though, he’s not sure yet.

“I’m down to do anything,” he said.

His openness fits with the breadth of his musical tastes, which doesn’t really fit into any certain genre. His grooves cover all kinds of ground. The hour and nature of J.C.’s creation, then, will come when we least expect it. But, no doubt, it’ll be worth the wait.

Ryan’s a jazz musician who often catches people who aren’t jazz musicians off guard when he grunts and wails to jazz music. Ask him about tritone substitutions.

***

You can follow J.C. from the shadows by keeping up with his socials:

Jake’s Instagram

Jake’s Soundcloud

And you can be a live apostle, too, by catching him at his upcoming shows:

AirTrain Jazz Festival with the Eric Paulin Quartet on Thursday, April 25 from 5–7 p.m

Kismat Indian Restaurant with his trio on Friday, April 26 from 7:30–10:30 p.m.

Tomi Jazz (21+) on Monday, April 29 from 8–11 p.m.

With Jasper Dutz’s “Barely a Dude” Pocket Band on Tuesday, April 30 at 8 p.m.: 220 W 93rd St., Apt. 8D

CultureRyan Daar