Your Connection To Jazz, Blues and NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Jazz

Jazz historian Phil Schaap and jazz radio producer Thurston Briscoe

A white man in a suit and tie sits in a radio station studio.
John Abbott
/
Phil Schaap on the air at WKCR in New York.

Let’s remember some of the “behind the scenes” people we lost this year; the educators, historians and producers who make the music accessible to everyone. Two dedicated jazz presenters were Phil Schaap and Thurston Briscoe. Robin Lloyd has their stories.

From 1970, until his death on Sept. 7, Phil Schaap displayed his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz music and history in his jazz programs on Columbia University’s radio station WKCR in New York.

He taught jazz at Columbia, Princeton, Rutgers and Juilliard. Schaap recorded hundreds of hours of interviews with jazz legends. He created the Swing University educational program for Jazz at Lincoln Center, which continues to offer jazz listening and appreciation classes with the goal of increasing and cultivating audiences for the music.

Phil Schaap won six Grammy Awards for his liner notes, audio engineering and production. He was named as one of this year’s National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters.

Schaap was known as the ultimate authority on Charlie Parker’s music, and one of his long-running radio programs, Bird Flight, was dedicated entirely to Parker’s history and recordings.

***

Thurston Briscoe was a radio producer, best known for his work on NPR’s long-running program Jazz Set. He died Aug. 16.

Briscoe had been fascinated by music radio stations since his boyhood.

At Wichita State University, Briscoe majored in theater and speech therapy and hosted classical and jazz shows on the university station.

Briscoe moved to Eugene, Oregon, where he hosted a weekly jazz show on KLCC, the local NPR station. Soon he was also reporting on public affairs and became a full-time producer of features and documentaries.

In 1980, NPR hired Briscoe to join the arts unit of their newly created daily show Morning Edition. He became the associate producer of the NPR performance series Jazz Alive!

For 23 years, Briscoe served first as program director and then vice president of programming and production at Newark’s WBGO “Jazz 88,” where he championed live remotes and performance series.

Briscoe was executive producer of NPR/WBGO’s JazzSet, whose first host, Branford Marsalis, gave him the affectionate on-air name “Thurston Briscoe the Third.”

During his tenure, WBGO became one of the most listened to jazz radio stations in the country.

Throughout his career, Briscoe mentored many new public radio producers and managers nationwide, especially African American producers. He was a role model with legendary warmth and presence.