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Paul Blair, writer, broadcaster, editor, guide — dies, 69

Dec 8th, 2011 | By

Paul Blair, 1942 - 2011

Sad news for jazzers and walkers, not only of New York City: writer, editor, broadcaster and tour guide Paul Blair died suddenly on December 6. He suffered a heart attack while sitting on a park bench, a month short of his 70th birthday.
Paul has been editor of Hot House jazz magazine since 2003; in 2001 he founded SwingStreets, conducting walking tours of jazz-related sites throughout Manhattan and the other boroughs. Born in Pittsburgh, PA, he resided in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Earlier in his life, Paul  taught English as a Peace Corp volunteer in Malawi, Africa, worked as a freelance journalist in Indonesia for a decade (during which he met his wife, Yessy), and hosted a daily radio broadcast for Voice of America. His writing appeared in more than two dozen publications; his specialties and enthusiasms included music in general, food and Americana, but most specifically jazz and New York City.
A member of the Jazz Journalists Association for more than 15 years, Paul was a contributor to Jazz Notes, the JJA’s quarterly journal during the 1990s. A licensed New York City tour guide, he conducted an international coterie of jazz critics, scholars, journalists and advocates through a SwingStreets tour of Harlem in October 2007, in conjunction with the “Jazz in the Global Imagination” conference, produced by the Center for Jazz Studies, Columbia University with the JJA.
Paul Blair is survived by his mother, his wife Yessy, two children from a previous marriage and three grandchildren. I knew him personally as a very nice, smart, well-informed and self-effacing man, who will be missed by his friends and colleagues as well as his family.

About Howard Mandel

Howard Mandel is an author, media and events producer, editor, educator, lecturer and president of the Jazz Journalists Association.

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15 Comments to “Paul Blair, writer, broadcaster, editor, guide — dies, 69”

  1. avatar Jason says:

    I am so very saddened to hear of Paul’s passing. He was such a nice person, a gentleman, and such a professional and passionate supporter of this music. He was also my neighbor in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn – I always thought that our hood was a little hipper with him living here.

    I just spoke to Paul two days ago and then exchanged emails with him – he was asking what I had cooking for 2012, and was looking to check out a show I was working. We had a nice chat as always and he sounded full of life and energy.

    Truly a great loss to the jazz community and to the world. You will be missed my friend.

    Jason Byrne
    Red Cat Publicity

    • avatar bob mover says:


      I’m so shocked and saddened by the death of Paul Blair. We also had a wonderful talk on Monday. We ,ironically, even were discussing our health and we talked mostly of my ailments. He was a sweet ,beautiful cat and I’ll miss him.

      Hope that you’re doing well.
      Bob Mover

    • avatar Inge Maskun says:


      I’m very very sad.
      I met Paul in Indonesia 1982 and we remained friends since ( I spoke with him early Nov. and he asked me to call him again before dinner time, some time, so we could catch up. I haven’t, and I can’t forgive myself for that!! I haven’t been able to connect with Yessy yet). He had enriched my vocabulary in jazz, definitely. He was easily making friends and staying friends with people around the world. May he now enjoy endless performances in Heaven, somewhere there’s jazz!!!

  2. Paul was indeed a nice person who has contributed to our quarterly jazz magazine Jazzmozaïek in Belgium. In his column he gave hints to the venues in NYC and interesting jazz artists to follow. We will miss this wonderful written comments on the Big Apple scene.
    Our truly condoleances to Yessy.

    Bernard Lefevre
    Editor Jazzmozaiek – Belgium

  3. avatar Niken Rachmad says:

    I’m deeply saddened by the passing away of Paul Blair. He was a dear friend to me in Washington DC during our time with VOA back in the 80s, then in Indonesia.

    I can only pray for his soul to rest in peace , and for his beloved family to be strong.
    He will certainly be badly missed.

  4. avatar dieni fitriani says:

    bye Paul, your family in Indonesia misses you

  5. avatar tasso spanos says:

    Pittsburgh has lost a man of depth, character, humor, knowledge , joy of living and sharing
    great jazz advice. May he rest in peace and enjoy the heavenly trumpets! Condolences
    to Yessy, his mother, and his family.

  6. avatar Rully Mangunsong says:

    I just got this news from Inge Maskun today,

    “Selamat Jalan Paul”,
    Thank you:
    for your contributions thru your writings for JakJazz for many years (he didn’t even ask for money, he said, “I will find money from other sources”
    for your short visit to Jakarta in the last few years,
    for your gifts of magazines and “DownBeat” T-shirt during your visit to Jakarta ….
    for your ……

    RIP Paul Blair

  7. avatar Ditta Amahorseya says:

    Farewell, Paul!

    I knew Paul when he lived in Jakarta. He had the best voice and was always so friendly. I remember getting his emails during the Holidays. Also met him and Yessy when I was visiting NY some years ago.

    My best friend Inge Maskun and I were just talking about him last month when both of us were in NYC.
    May your soul rest in peace, Paul. My deepest condolences to Yessy.

  8. avatar Pudjo says:

    Gee Paul – this is very sad news to me.

    I heard this news from my friend Rully, but I didn’t have time to react immediately at that time (I think it was some 2 weeks ago) – I was wondering:

    *How can I reach Yessy – his wife – to pass on our condolences?*

    Yes, I know Paul Blair, like the man he is.
    I have lots of respect for the man, he is a simple man, but has his own true philosophy of life. He asks less of others but gives more than is required. He likes jazz, I like jazz – but Paul know more about the roots of jazz than I did. I approach jazz thru the music. Paul approach jazz thru the way people communicate and live with the music.

    In essence YES, he taught me more about jazz than any other books I have read. He had a record collection of some thousand of records and one day he appeared at my house in Jakarta, and offered me to copy an external disk he has made of his total records collection. He said the collection in its physical state, is taking a lot of space and also a lot of maintenance is required – so he opted to put this all on an external disk. Of course, I haven’t let this passed and by and now – I have Paul’s Jazz collection in my archive. Great.

    It has always been a “come an go” with Paul. I really do not understand how to get in touch with him. I don’t get in touch with him – sometimes he gets in touch with me – and then I followed up. In this time and day, I am not sure whether he has a cellphone or not, but he never gave me his cellphone number. And I never ask.

    He gave me his private tel-nr in Brooklyn though, but this is useless – as during the day, no one will be answering the phone. Paul is always on the go, and Yessy has to go to work.

    I will remember Paul as he is – a simple jazz soul, which I had in mind “re-connecting” again when I am in NYC the next time around.. But alas, this would not be feasible … yes Paul, you have left with me a great impression of yourself – a BIG jazz person, a BIG soul, a Big obsessed jazz fan, who knows the ins and outs of the JazzStreets in NYC. YES, I have also participated in the Jazz Walks he had organized way back in 2005 and then some more later, I have always wondered – how he could remember all that, because we often went to some jazz concerts, and then we would walk back to a station or so – and then he might say … “let’s go thru this street and this one”, make a detour – and explained, matter of factly – what has happened in all those buildings we passed, jazz-realated of course …. Incredible, he was a walking jazz encyclopedia – my goodness.

    So YES my friend – Rest in Peace my friend, listen to the eternal trumpets heralded through the Walhalla, in expectation of your coming. The Heavenly Jazz Big Band with all the immortal souls of the men who has gone through their portals in the days past … look at Art Kane’s Picture Jazz Portrait in Harlem (1958) …. amongst others – Gigi Gryce, Hank Jones on the lefthand-side – Thelonious Monk, somewhere in the middle – Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie flanking on the righthand-side, and sitting …. the one and only Count Basie …

    The Heavenly Jazz Choir and Orchestra wil accompany you in your daily walks thru Walhalla.
    Rest and Swing in Peace my friend and my deepest condolences to Yessi.

    (Jazz Aficionado from Jakarta)

    • avatar KuraKura says:

      Hi,chap..das ist ein trauriger Anlass und für Dich persönlich ein Verlust.Es gibt und gab Männer,die für den Jazz gelebt und ihn publik gemacht haben, ich denke da auch an den Jazzpapst J.E.Behrendt,der in ol’ germany die Stimme des Jazz war , wie in Indonesien wohl Paul Blair.. Meine erste Jazzplatte war von Louis,ne 45er,New Orleans Function auf der B-Seite zusammen mit When the Saints…Es fängt mit dem
      Trauer-Marsch an,..dann ashes to ashes,dust to dust,Lous’ unnachahmliche Reibeisenstimme,..und dann
      High life in the High Street. Life goes on . Das dürfte auch Paul Blair gefallen haben.Was für eine Musik , ich habe es eben auf youtube mehrmals gehört. 007 -in New Orleans ,auch auf youtube,aber drehen wir es mal um: to die and let live. Die Nachricht lässt einen kurz innehalten und -es geht weiter.So long,chap.Kura .

      • avatar JJA Editor says:

        i, chap .. this is a sad occasion and for you personally is a Verlust.Es and have been men who lived for jazz and made it public, I’m thinking also of the Pope JEBehrendt jazz, in the ol ‘germany the voice of the Jazz was in Indonesia as well .. Paul Blair My first jazz record was Louis, ne 45s, New Orleans Function on the B-side together with When the Saints … It starts with the Funeral March on, then .. ashes to ashes, dust to dust, Lous’ inimitable raspy voice, and then . . High Life in the High Street. Life goes on. That would also like Paul Blair haben.Was for music, I’ve just heard on youtube several times. 007 in New Orleans, also on youtube, but we turn it around once: to die and let live. The message can be one stop for a minute and it goes weiter.So long, chap.Kura.

  9. I have just this moment learned that Paul has passed away. Recently we decided to sneak into NYC and emailed Paul to see if he would meet us for breakfast. When he did not respond, I figured he was just too busy at the time. Hearing he has died is so very sad for Lynne and me. Aside from his endearing friendship. Paul was a long-time supporter of our music, even though we were cabaret performers only on the cusp, of jazz. Lynne and will miss him more than we an say. -Mike

  10. avatar Roy Issac says:

    Very sad to find of Pauls passing. A great man who i learnt many things from who will be very sadly missed. We shared some beautiful moments together. My family’s NYC trips will not be the same!! Rest in Peace friend, from your friends in Sydney Australia..

  11. avatar Keith Ellis says:

    I met Paul in NYC on a walking tour which he led.We had a great day and laughed a lot !

    So sorry.Thoughts to his family and friends.


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