In memory of Steve Schwartz, who passed away recently, here is a story below that ran in the 2012 issue of MassJazz Travel Guilde.
Steve Schwartz graced the airwaves at WGBH for nearly 27 years, enlightening listeners with his knowledge, passion and perceptiveness about jazz.
That’s why jazz lovers in Boston and around the nation were dismayed to learn that the station was eliminating his Friday night show, Jazz from Studio Four. And that Steve’s esteemed colleague, Eric Jackson, would have his nightly radio show reduced to weekends only.
Schwartz was gracious about the news, telling The Boston Globe, “It wasn’t a total surprise, but it is a loss. The station is losing a consistent format spread across the week. And the Boston jazz community is losing an important venue for musicians to promote their events.”
Meanwhile, jazz leaders were quick to praise Schwartz and reflect on his contributions.
“Steve’s shows were the most intelligent, well-crafted jazz presentations on radio,” said impresario Fred Taylor, music director at Scullers Jazz Club. “He brought a wealth of knowledge to each record he played.”
“Jazz from Studio Four has been one of my favorite radio shows over the years,” says jazz publicist Sue Auclair. “Steve has very fine musical taste and a gentle radio voice—he picks the really special pieces of music and showcases artists in a really unique way.”
“People like Eric and Steve love and know the music. To a listener like myself, it’s almost like having a History of Jazz class on the radio,” wrote pianist Danilo Perez, head of Berklee’s Global Jazz Institute.
Schwartz was “born and raised in Boston…and discovered jazz on the radio as a teenager living in southern California,” he writes on his WGBH profile, adding, “There’s always new music to discover and old music to rediscover.”
Before coming to GBH, Steve volunteered on Harvard’s WHRB and earned high praise for his jazz show, wrote Globe reporter Ernie Santosuosso.
In addition to being a stellar on-air radio host, Steve is also a talented producer.
“Steve produced many great live recordings from Scullers and other locations that went national on NPR through WBGO in New Jersey under the title Jazz Set,” says Taylor. “And he produced some wonderful live music from the WGBH studio featuring the talents of musicians living and working here in our community.”
“I really loved the recordings he did as well—many for Jazz Set,” says Auclair. “Especially memorable is his recording of the late Shirley Horn at a concert she gave at Sanders Theatre. It was the only time I’d seen Shirley away from the piano and a completely different experience watching her sing directly to the audience! At the end, everyone gave her a standing ovation . . . in tears!”
Along with Jackson, Steve has been ubiquitous on the local jazz scene, introducing acts at Berklee’s BeanTown Festival while supporting local initiatives like JazzBoston.
“Two of JazzBoston’s strongest supporters - Tom Everett, founder of Harvard’s jazz studies program, and jazz journalist and Boston native Nat Hentoff – came to us because of Steve,” says JazzBoston founder Pauline Bilsky.
Optimists hope that WGBH will reconsider its programming and restore jazz to its former presence. In the meantime, Steve remains the class act that had so many listeners tuning in every Friday night.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to be on the radio playing music and producing live broadcasts for all these years,” he writes on Facebook. “Please continue to support the local Boston jazz scene. Go out to the clubs. Buy CDs and downloads. Continue to tune in to Eric Jackson. Jazz in Boston needs to survive. You can make it happen!”