Phil Woods

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Phil Woods
Woods in 1978
Woods in 1978
Background information
Birth namePhilip Wells Woods
Born(1931-11-02)November 2, 1931
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedSeptember 29, 2015(2015-09-29) (aged 83)
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Instrument(s)Alto saxophone, clarinet

Philip Wells Woods (November 2, 1931[1] – September 29, 2015)[2] was an American jazz alto saxophonist, clarinetist, bandleader, and composer.


Woods was born in Springfield, Massachusetts.[1] After inheriting a saxophone at age 12, he began taking lessons at a local music shop. His heroes on the alto saxophone included Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges. He studied music with Lennie Tristano at the Manhattan School of Music and at the Juilliard School.[1] His friend, Joe Lopes, coached him on clarinet as there was no saxophone major at Juilliard at the time and received a bachelor’s degree in 1952. Although he did not copy Charlie Parker, Woods was known as the New Bird, a nickname also given to other alto saxophone players such as Sonny Stitt and Cannonball Adderley.

In the 1950s, Woods began to lead his own bands. Quincy Jones invited him to accompany Dizzy Gillespie on a world tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department. A few years later he toured Europe with Jones, and in 1962 he toured Russia with Benny Goodman.[3]

After moving to France in 1968, Woods led the European Rhythm Machine, a group which tended toward avant-garde jazz.[1] He returned to the United States in 1972 and, after an unsuccessful attempt to establish an electronic group, he formed a quintet[1] 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.[3]

In 1979, Woods recorded the album More Live at 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".[1] He also played the alto sax solo on Steely Dan's "Doctor Wu" from their 1975 album Katy Lied,[4] as well as Paul Simon's "Have a Good Time" from the 1975 album Still Crazy After All These Years.[5]

Woods in 1983

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 compilation album, Into the Woods.[6]

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.[7]

Woods was married to Chan Parker, the common-law wife of Charlie Parker, for seventeen years and was the stepfather to Chan's daughter, Kim.[3] On September 4, 2015, he performed a tribute to Charlie Parker with Strings at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild and announced at the end of the show that he would be retiring. He died of emphysema on September 29, 2015, at the age of 83.[2]



Woods in Oslo, 2007

As leader/co-leader[edit]


  • Into the Woods (The Best of Phil Woods) (Concord, 1996)
  • Moonlight In Vermont (CTI, 2005)[4CD]

As sideman[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 437/8. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ a b Rick Nowlin (September 29, 2015). "Phil Woods, legendary alto saxophonist who gave one more great performance here in early September, dies at 83". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  3. ^ a b c Charles J. Gans (September 30, 2015). "Legendary Jazz Saxophonist Phil Woods Dies; Featured on Billy Joel Hit". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on October 3, 2015.
  4. ^ "Katy Lied - Steely Dan | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  5. ^ "Still Crazy After All These Years - Paul Simon | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  6. ^ "Into the Woods: The Best of Phil Woods - Phil Woods | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  7. ^ "Phil Woods - Bio | Capri Records Ltd". Retrieved 2015-12-11.
  8. ^ a b Phil Woods, Grammy at AllMusic


  • Gonzalez, Henry (1990). The Armadillo Years: A Visual History
  • Nisenson, Eric (1996). Round About Midnight – A Portrait of Miles Davis (2nd ed.). Da Capo: Printing Press. ISBN 0-306-80684-3.
  • Burke, Debbie (2011). The Poconos in B Flat. ISBN 978-1469134598.

External links[edit]