Phil Woods

Phil Woods

Woods in 1978
Background information
Birth name Philip Wells Woods
Born November 2, 1931
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died September 29, 2015(2015-09-29) (aged 83)
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Saxophonist, clarinetist, bandleader, composer
Instruments Alto saxophone
soprano saxophone
Associated acts Buddy Rich, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman

Philip Wells "Phil" Woods (November 2, 1931 – September 29, 2015) was an American jazz bebop alto saxophonist, clarinetist, bandleader and composer.


Woods was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He studied music with Lennie Tristano, who influenced him greatly, at the Manhattan School of Music and at the Juilliard School. His friend, Joe Lopes, coached him on clarinet as there was no saxophone major at Juilliard at the time. Although he did not copy Charlie "Bird" Parker, he was known as the New Bird, a label which was also attached to other alto players such as Sonny Stitt and Cannonball Adderley at one time or another in their careers.

In the mid-'50s, Woods began to front his own bands. He got major exposure after Quincy Jones invited him to accompany a 1956 State Department-sponsored world tour with the big band of Dizzy Gillespie. In 1959 Woods traveled Europe with Jones’ band; in 1962 he participated in Benny Goodman’s Russian tour.[1]

After moving to France in 1968, Woods led the European Rhythm Machine, a group which tended toward avant-garde jazz. He returned to the United States in 1972 and, after an unsuccessful attempt to establish an electronic group, he formed a quintet which was still performing, with some changes of personnel, in 2004. As his theme, Woods used a piece titled "How's Your Mama?"

Woods earned the top alto sax player award almost 30 times in Downbeat magazine’s annual readers’ poll. His quintet was awarded the top small combo title several times.[1]

In 1979, Woods made the recording More Live at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas. Perhaps his best known recorded work as a sideman is a pop piece, his alto sax solo on Billy Joel's 1977 "Just the Way You Are". He also played the alto sax solo on Steely Dan's "Doctor Wu" from their 1975 album Katy Lied, as well as Paul Simon's "Have a Good Time" from the 1975 album Still Crazy After All These Years.

Although Woods was primarily a saxophonist, he was also a clarinet player and solos can be found scattered through his recordings. One particular example is his clarinet solo on "Misirlou" on the album Into The Woods (see discography below).

Woods, along with Rick Chamberlain and Ed Joubert, founded the organization Celebration of the Arts (COTA) in 1978 late one night in the bar at the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap. The organization would eventually become the Delaware Water Gap Celebration of the Arts. Their initial goal was to help foster an appreciation of jazz and its relationship to other artistic disciplines. Each year, the organization hosts the Celebration of the Arts Festival in the town of Delaware Water Gap in September.

In 2005, Jazzed media released the documentary Phil Woods A Life in E Flat-Portrait of a Jazz Legend, directed by Rich Lerner and produced by Graham Carter.[2]

Phil Woods was married to Chan Parker, the widow of Charlie Parker, for 17 years from 1955 and was stepfather to Chan's daughter Kim.[1] On September 4, 2015, Woods performed a tribute to Charlie Parker with Strings at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, and announced toward the end of the show that he would be retiring. Woods died September 29, 2015, at the age of 83.[3]


In 2007, Phil received a "Jazz Master" award from the National Endowment of the Arts.

Grammy awards

Woods' recordings have been nominated for seven Grammy awards and have won four.

He also performed on the 2006 Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project Album, Simpático, which won Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year in 2007.


As leader/co-leader

Woods in 1983
Woods in Oslo, 2007
  • 1994: Just Friends; Our Monk (Philology)
  • 1995: Plays The Music if Jim McNeely (TCB)
  • 1996: Mile High Jazz Live in Denver (Concord)
  • 1996: Astor and Elis (Chesky)
  • 1996: The Complete Concert (JMS) with Gordon Beck
  • 1996: Into The Woods (Concord CCD-4699)
  • 1997: Celebration! (Concord)
  • 1998: The Rev and I (Blue Note)
  • 1999: cool woods (somethin`else)
  • 2006: Pass the Bebop (Cowbell Music) with Benjamin Koppel and Alex Riel Trio
  • 2011: Man with the Hat (Pazz) with Grace Kelly (co-leader), with Monty Alexander, Evan Gregor, Bill Goodwin, and Jordan Perlson

As sideman

With Manny Albam

With Benny Bailey

With Louis Bellson and Gene Krupa

With Bob Brookmeyer

With Kenny Burrell

With Gary Burton

With Ron Carter

With the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band

With Eddie Costa

With Lou Donaldson

With Bill Evans

With Gil Evans

With Art Farmer

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Stephane Grappelli

With Kenyon Hopkins

With Milt Jackson

With Billy Joel

With Quincy Jones

With John Lewis

With Mundell Lowe

With Bryan Lynch

With Herbie Mann

With Gary McFarland

With Nellie McKay

With Carmen McRae

With the Modern Jazz Quartet

With Thelonious Monk

With Oliver Nelson

With Joe Newman

With Anita O'Day

With Pony Poindexter

With Jimmy Raney

With Lalo Schifrin

With Shirley Scott

With Sahib Shihab

With Jimmy Smith

With Chris Swansen

With Billy Taylor

With Clark Terry

With Kai Winding



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