Khalil Shaheed had unflagging dedication as a trumpet player, composer, and jazz educator. I knew him in all three roles. His death on March 23, at age 63, followed a long battle against lung cancer. His absence leaves a hollow space in the Bay Area's jazz scene, and particularly in the world of jazz education.
Originally from Chicago, the forty-plus years Khalil lived in the Bay Area produced a career in which he recorded with Jimi Hendrix and Babatunde Lea, and toured with Buddy Miles and Taj Majal. He founded Oaktown Jazz Workshops in 1994, and worked as an educator for the San Jose Jazz Society and other organizations. Through all of this work, Khalil's aim was to extend the legacy of jazz, draw connections between its disparate styles, and to invest his students with a sense of its history.
When I worked at the San Jose Jazz Society from 1999 to 2005, Khalil was one of many Bay Area musicians who served as a performer, teacher, and clinician for the organization's jazz education programs. These consisted primarily of appearances at schools, a student jazz competition, and a multi-week summer jazz camp. Khalil not only participated, but helped shape the curriculum. Far from being a mere hired hand, he was a committed partner in the organization's programs.