Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Dean of Jazz

Before I get rolling with my brief post about Phil Schaap, I should introduce myself to those who may not know me. I'm Jason Heppler, a graduate student in history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and somewhat of a newcomer to jazz. Thanks to discussions with Ken Blanchard and my introduction to programs like Ken Laster's In the Groove, I've been able to expand my understanding and explore various features of jazz. Like Blanchard, my preferences cluster around the 1950s and 1960s, and I must admit that I've been neglecting the big band types, such as Duke Ellington. I also have yet to significantly branch into more recent artists and avant-garde music. Although he isn't usually included among the top classics in hard bop, I particularly find Lee Morgan exuding genius. I remain an outside observer: although I played in school band from fifth grade to the end of high school and learned four different instruments during that period of my life, I never joined a jazz ensemble (sometimes to my regret). When I'm not engulfed in academic projects, I also spend my days trying to build a respectable jazz library. Now on to my post that appears at SDP...

A question that's often raised when you tell people you're studying history is, "what can you do with a history degree?" For a Columbia University history major, class of 1973, the answer was to be passionately informed about jazz. Phil Schaap hosts "Bird Flight" on Columbia University's radio show WKRC and was profiled by the New Yorker this week, a tribute to his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and unusual stories about many of jazz's greatest players. It's a fun read and an interesting reflection on memory and forgetting, so be sure to check it out.

[cross posted at SDP]

1 comment:

  1. Kudos to Jason for mentioning this article, which I had planned to do. As chance had it, I read it on the plane back from New Orleans, with a new Lee Morgan disc in my bag.

    The portrait of Phil Schaap is astounding reading. Here is someone who seems to remember every piece of jazz information that ever entered his consciousness. All the rest of us jazz nerds can only bow and whisper: "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!"

    The costs of such a high level of devotion are pretty obvious. The article notes that Schaap lives in house his parents lived in, and that he was married, once, briefly.