By Nii B. Andrews.
Phil Schaap’s voice on WKCR 89.9 FM New York during the 80s was for me an enlightening introduction to serious discourse that brought into full bloom the invigorating power and aesthetic breadth of jazz music.
It is difficult to imagine the world without his calm but passionate voice as he shared his insights into that glorious art form on Columbia University’s FM Station.
His meticulous scholarship spurred me on to listen more carefully, observe more closely and research more thoroughly into all things including and besides jazz.
Phil Schaap’s weekday morning foray into the intricate depths of Charlie Parker’s music was the stuff of legend; it was called BIRD FLIGHT.
For over 40 years, Phil had been an irreplaceable presence at the station and an acknowledged titan in the jazz community helping to shape a generation of jazz historians and appreciators.
During his distinguished career he was awarded six Grammys and numerous other honors; he was also on the faculty for jazz programs at elite institutions such as Princeton, Julliard and his alma mata, Columbia.
Martin Johnson penned the following on the NPR website:
“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 make his mark as a musician.
Instead, Schaap was one of the leading jazz scholars in America, and the genre’s foremost 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 in the power of jazz, and in 2021 the National Endowment for the Arts named Schaap a Jazz Master himself.
……….’He was a true inspiration,’ said Wynton Marsalis, the Lincoln Center’s artistic director.
‘Phil was steadfast in his belief that the story of real, swinging jazz illustrates a positive, inclusive and successful metaphor for how we Americans could and would do better.’ “
His cousin Rosie Schaap tweeted on Wednesday, “….(I) wish he could tell me one more wild story about Papa Jo Jones. BIRD LIVES! In my heart and so does Phil!”.
At ARTcapital Ghana, we love our jazz – the straight ahead gut bucket type, in the tradition, no elevator music, no musical wall paper; Real Jazz, Right Now!
It is therefore with the deepest respect and gratitude that we pause this weekend to remember Phil Schaap.
We shall never forget him. May he Rest in Peace.