Phil Schaap

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Phil Schaap (born April 6, 1951) is an American jazz disc jockey, historian, archivist, and producer. He has hosted jazz shows on the Columbia University WKCR since 1970; he currently hosts two, Bird Flight and Traditions In Swing, both since 1981. He has won several Grammy Awards.

Early years[edit]

Schaap was raised by jazz-loving parents. His father was Walter Schaap, one of the first jazz historians and discographers.[1]Through his father, Schaap was friendly with many jazz musicians from a young age, particularly the members of the original Count Basie Orchestra. Count Basie's drummer, Jo Jones, became his occasional babysitter when Schaap was six years old.

Phil Schaap is a cousin of the late sports journalist Dick Schaap.

Early in his career he managed the Basie alumni band, The Countsmen (featuring alto saxophonist Earle Warren and trombonist Dicky Wells) and doing sound for various Jazz events including George Wein's Newport Jazz Festival. For 17 years Schaap ran the Jazz at The West End jazz room on Broadway at 114th St in New York City, booking on a nightly basis such prominent swing-band alumni as Russell Procope's Ellingtonia, The Countsmen, Franc Williams, George Kelly, Eddie Barefield, Sonny Greer, Benny Waters, "Papa" Jo Jones, Buddy Tate, Vic Dickenson, Harold Ashby, Big Nick Nicholas, Ronnie Cole, Eddie Durham and "Doc" Cheatham, more modern jazz artists such as Lee Konitz and Joe Albany, and blues artists such as Percy France and Big Joe Turner.

Disc jockey[edit]

Schaap attended Columbia University and graduated in 1973.[2] On February 2, 1970, his freshman year, he began broadcasting jazz on the Columbia University radio station, WKCR-FM, and he has been a radio broadcaster ever since.

Schaap currently hosts two shows on WKCR, both of which began in 1981: the morning show Bird Flight, which is broadcast from 8:20 to 9:30 AM on weekdays and is devoted to the music of Charlie Parker, and Traditions In Swing, which is broadcast on Saturday evenings from 6 to 9 PM.

Schaap, on his Bird Flight radio program, is noted for his long and detailed discussions (in his "pontifical baritone") of Charlie Parker minutiae.[3] Schaap is also known for his marathon festivals on one artist, birthday broadcasts, and memorials.

Jazz archivist and record producer[edit]

From 1984 to 1991, Schaap was the archivist for the Savoy Jazz label. Schaap has been involved with the re-release of many archival recordings on CD, releases of artists including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Machito and the Afro-Cubans and Duke Ellington. For his efforts in engineering, production, and liner notes, Schaap has been nominated for eleven Grammy awards and has won seven, including three for producing, three for historical writing, and one for audio engineering.[4]


As an educator Schaap has taught jazz at the graduate level at Columbia University and Rutgers University. Schaap continues his academic teaching career at Princeton University and The Juilliard School, while running an adult jazz education program for Jazz at Lincoln Center. Upon becoming Curator at Jazz at Lincoln Center he left a successful career producing, remastering, and writing for record companies such as Universal, Sony, and PolyGram.


In addition to his liner notes, Schaap contributed to the 2005 book by Wynton Marsalis, Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits.

Media appearances[edit]

Schaap appears prominently in Ken Burns' PBS 2001 documentary Jazz.

Schaap played a radio announcer in the 2009 Kurt Vonnegut/Dave Soldier "radio opera" A Soldier's Story.[5]

Press and commentary[edit]

The May 19, 2008 issue of The New Yorker includes a nine-page article about Schaap by David Remnick. The article is a tribute to Schaap's unique, vast knowledge of jazz history and the unusual story of his lifelong friendships with many of jazz's greatest players.[3]

Frank Foster has called him "a walking jazz history book".[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

Grammy Awards[edit]

  • Best Historical Recording 2000 (producer & engineer) for Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings
  • Best Historical Recording 1996 (producer & engineer) for Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings
  • Best Album Notes 1996 (album notes writer) for Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings
  • Best Audio Engineering 1996 (engineer) for Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings
  • Best Historical Recording 1993 (producer) for The Complete Billie Holiday on Verve 1945-1959
  • Best Album Notes 1993 (album notes writer) for The Complete Billie Holiday on Verve 1945-1959
  • Best Album Notes 1989 (album notes writer) for Bird: The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve


Schaap is a distinguished member of the Board of Directors Advisory committee of The Jazz Foundation of America.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Schaap lives in New York City. In 1997 he married Ellen LaFurn, a now-retired schoolteacher, who has returned to her former passion of singing jazz professionally. .[7]

References in popular culture[edit]

He is the inspiration for Woody Allen's on-screen character in Allen's 1999 film Sweet and Lowdown.

The 2015 feature film Miles Ahead contains a scene in which Miles Davis, played by Don Cheadle, calls up WKCR Radio and talks to Phil Schaap on air about Schaap's selection and commentary on Davis's music.[8]


  1. ^ "Walter Schaap, 87, Jazz Fan and Scholar, Dies (Published 2005)". The New York Times. 2005-06-05. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-11-02.
  2. ^ Boncy, Alexis (Fall 2020). "Radio Days". Columbia College Today. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Remnick, David (May 19, 2008). "Bird-Watcher: Thinking about Charlie Parker, every day". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
  4. ^ Grabell, Michael (March 2, 2001). "Schaap captures seventh Grammy Award". Daily Princetonian. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
  5. ^ "Kurt Vonnegut & Dave Soldier: Ice-9 Ballads". Muruch. July 29, 2009. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
  6. ^ "Advisory Board". Jazz Foundation of America. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
  7. ^ "Phil Schaap and Ellen LaFurn". The New York Times. July 20, 1997. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
  8. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]