iTunes vs. Phil Schaap

Culture, Info Tech

If you don’t know who Phil Schaap is, you don’t listen to jazz radio in New York City. But this post isn’t really about Phil Schaap the man, it is about Phil Schaap the type. You know, the person who knows which recording of which album has the sound of Max Roach clearing his throat between takes. Few of us can aspire to Phil Schaap levels of obsessiveness about Jazz minutia, but anyone who seriously loves Jazz wants to know something about an album: who was in the band, what year the recording was made, etc.

All of these things, including the liner notes, are missing from Jazz downloads on iTunes. I just discovered Wayne Bremser’s excellent article (from last year) about the implications of iTunes for the Jazz collector:

A full understanding of jazz goes beyond the Great Man” theory and recognizes the influence of side players — the wide network of people that developed this musical language together. Selling songs and albums separated from names disrespects the artists and hinders the education of new listeners.

Phil Schaap is also famous for his liner notes on many a Grammy winning jazz album. Liner notes on Jazz albums are a literary art-form unto themselves and it is a shame to see these fall by the wayside. Not to mention the ever shrinking size of album covers:

Album design is a significant part of jazz culture. Before music video, record companies relied on striking graphic design and photographs to capture the feeling of music. The visual language of album cover art can be read by jazz fans to determine when an album was recorded and which label produced it.

As with Bremser, I am a big fan of iTMS, but it always seems strange to me that the information age actually gives us less information than we got in the jazz age.

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