Phil, so far

Through a 40-year career in broadcasting that began at WKCR, Phil Schaap has become an essential figure in the teaching of Jazz comprehension on radio and in the classroom, and a treasury of information and insight into the music. On paper he is a product of the New York City public schools and Columbia University. A stronger factor was the musical environment curated by his parents, and specifically father Walter Schaap, a notable early Jazz scholar. Crucially, Phil’s babysitter was Jo Jones, the powerhouse drummer from the Count Basie band. Listening sessions with Papa Jo also sharpened the keen enthusiasm for Jazz that would increase through adolescent years in contact with the music’s progenitors—Earle Warren, Dicky Wells, Russell Procope, and Buddy Tate top the list.

In his college years at WKCR, Phil invested all of his energies in propagating the message of the masters. The central, continuing part of that mission has been his constant presence on the air at WKCR. Phil fueled the early 70s transition of that brought Jazz to the fore the station’s programming, climaxing with the pace-setting Charlie Parker Festival of August 1973. Meanwhile he managed the Basie alumni band, The Countsmen, and also ran the daily swing performance schedule at the West End that would carry forward into the 90s. In 1984 Phil’s own radio schedule got even thicker when he launched Birdflight as a weekday morning program. Phil emerged in the Eighties as a celebrated Jazz reissue producer and discographer for Savoy, Verve, Sony, Mosaic, other labels; and in the Nineties as Professor Schaap at Princeton, Columbia, the Manhattan School of Music, and Juilliard.

Phil’s accomplishments can be measured in years, records he produced, concert and lecture appearances, curricula, Grammys, etc., but the most meaningful index (still counting, in fact) is the number of listeners he has taught as formal or informal students to recognize and appreciate the differences between Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke.