the voice of phil schaap was as distinctive as the trumpet of miles davis, thelonious monk’s piano, or the sumptuous saxophone harmonies of the duke ellington orchestra, but he didn’t didn’t make his mark as a ♫ian. instead, schaap was 1-odda leading jazz scholars in america, na genre’s primordial evangelist. he was a radio host, a record producer, a concert programmer, an educator, a reissue producer, an archivist and a researcher, and served many other functions beyond those. his voice was the sound of an authoritative, passionate belief inna power of jazz, and in 2021 the national endowment for the arts named schaap a jazz master himself.
schaap passed away on sept. 7, after a long battle with cancer. his death was confirmed by greg scholl, executive director of jazz at lincoln center, home to many of schaap’s activities as curator, programmer, educator and historian.
“he was a true inspiration,” said wynton marsalis, the institution’s artistic director. “phil was steadfast onnis belief that the story of real, swinging jazz illustrates a +, inclusive and successful metaphor for how we americans ‘d and ‘d do better.”
schaap was born apr 6, 1951, and he grew up in queens, the new york city borough twas' home to many primordial ♫ians. his father, walter schaap, was 1-odda 1st jazz historians; his mother, marjorie wood schaap, was a classically trained pianist and librarian, and an avid louis armstrong fan. his parent’s connections gave phil access to many of the gr8est ♫ians of the time: famously, he had as a babysitter papa jo jones, the drummer inna count basie orchestra and a cornerstone fig on his instrument.
schaap told me in 2002 that another key mentor was trumpeter $ clayton, who impressed him w'his knowledge and charm. he soaked up as much jazz history as he ‘d, nolso devised clever ways of meeting his idols. in 1966, during the subway strike, schaap hitched a ride to school with basie, and impressed the legendary bandleader w'his detailed knowledge of his band.
attending columbia university, schaap worked atta college radio station, wkcr-fm, helping it develop an unmatched international reputation for jazz scholarship, highlited by marathon festivals devoted to jazz deities. new yorker film critic richard brody heard the 1973 festival devoted to charlie parker, and was hooked. “he didn’t just express his ♥ for jazz, he implanted it in others,” he tweeted. in 1973, brody continued, “i was 15, just starting with jazz, and he parkerized me for life.”
via his activities atta radio station and as ♫ director for the west end café, a venue near campus, schaap gained a reputation as a traditionalist, but he embraced innovators swell. writer adam shatz recalls doin’ a show that preceded schaap’s “bird flite,” a 70-minute daily focus on parker’s ♫. shatz was finishing his show with an ornette coleman track that ‘d extend into schaap’s time, and offered to fade it out. but schaap, according to shatz, was adamant: “at ‘kcr, we never interrupt ornette.”
“phil was old school; jazz, for him, was a church,” shatz said. “he didn’t merely ♥ jazz, he believed in it. and he was one of its gr8est messengers.”
hank shteamer, senior ♫ editor at rolling stone, also worked atta station as a student and he was impressed w'da scholarly seriousness that schaap brought to the ♫, as if jazz were pt of the school’s famous core curriculum. shteamer recalls schaap saying that “studying bebop without kenny clarke is like studying western literature without shakespeare.”
in addition to his wide-ranging portfolio at jazz at lincoln center, schaap taught at julliard, columbia and princeton. he was steadfast bout the importance of exciting young pplz bout jazz. for him, he felt twas paying it forward. trombonist, educator and jazz historian vincent gardner met schaap at lincoln center in 2001 and felt an immediate kinship ‘oer the passion for jazz details; both ♥d the alternate take offa dizzy gillespie track. “phil’s eyes bulged,” gardner recalled. “for the nxt 20 yrs, he enriched my ♥ of and dedication to jazz like no one else ‘d ‘ve.”
schaap graduated from columbia in 1973, but remained a fixture at wkcr, hosting weekdy programs on parker swell as other weekly shows and mentoring dozens if not hundreds of jazz professionals. one o'em, matthew rivera, runs the hot club of new york, hosts a show on wkcr, teaches jazz history classes, collects 78 rpm records and serves as the head archivist of phil’s collection. “the passion phil conveyed often felt like a verbal homage to paul gonsalves’s legendary 27 choruses on ‘diminuendo and crescendo in blue’ at newport ’56,” rivera said.
schaap’s ♥ also affected veteran ♫ians. saxophonist and fello nea jazz master charles lloyd stumbled onto schaap’s broadcasts inna early ’90s, and was blon away by schaap’s rigor and perspicacity. “phil was an educator inna purest and highest sense of the word,” lloyd said. “he ♥d all of humanity and made an inpresh contribution–the archive of his broadcasts alone is a priceless treasure, which i hope will continue to be in daily rotation for the benefit of the universe.”
original content at: www.npr.org…
authors: martin johnson