Phil Woods

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Phil Woods (2007)

Philip Wells "Phil" Woods (born November 2, 1931 in Springfield , Massachusetts , † September 29, 2015 in Stroudsburg , Pennsylvania ) was an American modern jazz musician . He was clearly in the footsteps of Charlie Parker on the alto saxophone . He loosened up the stylistic elements developed by this with a broader phrasing and changed the tone formation with occasional growls and other blues reminiscences , if this suited the melody line.

Musical beginnings

Phil Woods was the first professional musician in his family. The alto saxophone , which he began to play when he was twelve, was his first instrument; He learned it privately for four years. At the age of 13 he started playing with a youth band. His first professional engagement, a "gig that lasted longer than a weekend" (Woods), brought him Joe Morello , a colleague from Springfield.

Before moving permanently to New York City , he drove there once a week for five weeks to study with Lennie Tristano and to buy the latest Charlie Parker recordings. After a summer semester at the Manhattan School of Music , he enrolled at the Juilliard School of Music in 1948 for a four-year course.

The time at the Juilliard School

At the well-known school for dance, drama and music, Woods was initially surrounded by many guitarists; it happened that five of them came to a session . The clarinet became his major . He was interested in classical clarinet playing and wanted to learn as much as possible about music instead of focusing exclusively on the jazz scene , which in his opinion was unfavorable for acquiring the necessary musical resources. Not only did he want to play the blues , but he also wanted to familiarize himself with other aspects and developments in music. Before he fully got into jazz, he wanted to learn more. However, he was not interested in a connection between jazz and classical music, as these are completely different categories. But even as a jazz musician, one should master certain musical techniques, says Woods. He also studied composition . He composed a piano sonata, a string trio and three pieces for solo clarinet. Since then he has not written any more classical works. When he left school, in a sense, he also left the classical scene. He saw his future, both in composition and in playing, in jazz.

When he spent two months in Charlie Barnet's band for financial reasons - his wife was expecting a child - he studied between shows for his final exam, which was scheduled for the day after the last appearance with the band. On the last evening in the theater, his clarinet was stolen and he had to wait a full year to catch up on the exam he passed.

Smaller and bigger jobs

After Juilliard, he performed in New York and later with his own combo on Staten Island before a drunken Prize boxer hit him on the mouth one evening and he had to take a three-month break. Before that, however, he had made his first recording for “Prestige”, together with John Wilson , and shortly afterwards he signed a contract with this record company. But he will not stay, but as a freelancer and will never sign with a company that offers him such conditions. He signed for three years, his contract included two LPs a year, too little to live on. With a few exceptions, he was even prevented from making recordings for other people. After Staten Island he played with Neal Hefti for a few months , including two LPs with the band and one with singer Francis Wayne. He then played for a year at the Nut Club in Greenwich Village , with Nick Stabulas , George Syran and Teddy Kotick . With Jon Eardley in the quintet, Phil's first album was created under his own name. Then he played for a month at Cafe Bohemia with Donald Byrd , Teddy Kotick and Will Bradley Jr .; he said that he was satisfied with the job, that it was quite a difference to the Nut Club. The next major engagement was a month on the Birdland Tour, February 1956 , with Kenny Dorham , Conte Candoli , Al Cohn and the rhythm section of Sarah Vaughan . That year he was a soloist on Quincy Jones ' debut album This Is How I Feel About Jazz .

Phil Woods (1978)

Search for identity

He became better known when he worked with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band and with the Friedrich Gulda Combo. He justified the departure of Gillespie (1957) with the slight loss of his identity. He said he had many opportunities to improvise for a big band, but only eight bars per piece to warm up was not enough, and it was also very difficult to keep sixteen people happy at the same time.

In 1958/59 he played in the quintet of Buddy Rich and was then a founding member of the Quincy Jones Big Band , with which he toured Europe in 1959/60 and stayed until 1961. In 1962 he worked for Benny Goodman and worked in the next few years as a session musician, such as Benny Carter's album Further Definitions 1961. In 1962 he participated in the Soviet Union tour of the Benny Goodman Orchestra; In the documentary film Jazz for the Russians - To Russia with Jazz (2011), he reported on the friction with the swing band leader. At the end of 1963 he played with Thelonious Monk ( Big Band and Quartet in Concert ). He moved to Paris with his wife, Chan Richardson . There he founded his band European Rhythm Machine in 1968 (with George Gruntz and Gordon Beck on piano, Henri Texier on bass and Daniel Humair on drums). With this group he performed successfully at European festivals until 1972, although (especially because of the electronic sounds used and the interaction in the rhythm section) the impression could arise that Woods tended to march in the direction of rock jazz. He also played with the Kenny Clarke / Francy Boland Big Band , with Rolf Kühn , in 1972 in The George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band and in 1973 took part in an Alto Summit produced by Joachim-Ernst Berendt with Lee Konitz , Leo Wright and Pony Poindexter .

Pioneer of neobop

He then returned to the USA. He worked in the studio in Los Angeles and New York and recorded with Aretha Franklin , Spyro Gyra , Lena Horne and Michel Legrand . He also formed a new combo in which Tom Harrell and the pianists Hal Galper and Jim McNeely as well as Steve Gilmore and Bill Goodwin played for many years and which received great recognition. With this band Woods contributed in particular to the bebop revival . He has also recorded with Dizzy Gillespie , Clark Terry , Jon Hendricks , Tommy Flanagan , Red Mitchell and Marian McPartland . On the 1979 album Mingus released by Joni Mitchell , he worked with other first-class jazz musicians. As of 2011, he lived in Delaware Water Gap , Pennsylvania .

Woods had to carry an oxygen bottle with him at concerts in his final years because of emphysema . On September 4, 2015, at a concert in Pittsburgh with members of the local symphony orchestra and a jazz trio, in which he interpreted the music from the album Charlie Parker with Strings , he announced that he would no longer perform in the future. He died on September 29, 2015 at the age of 83 as a result of his illness.


In 2007 he received the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship . In 2016 he was inducted into the Down Beat Readers Hall of Fame.

Discography (selection)

  • 1954: Pot Pie ( Prestige / OJC)
  • 1955: Woodlore (OJC)
  • 1956: Pairing Off (OJC)
  • 1957: Phil & Quill (OJC)
  • 1957: Sugan (OJC)
  • 1961: Rights of Swing ( Candid )
  • 1969: Phil Woods & His European Rhythm Machine: At the Montreux Jazz Festival ( Verve )
  • 1969: Round Trip (Verve, with Chris Swanson Orchestra)
  • 1971: Phil Woods & His European Rhythm Machine: At the Frankfurt Jazz Festival ( Embryo Records ; with Gordon Beck , Henri Texier , Daniel Humair , rec. 1970)
  • 1980: Phil Woods / Lew Tabackin (Evidence)
  • 1984: Integrity ( Red )
  • 1984: Heaven (Evidence)
  • 1986: Dizzy Gillespie Meets Phil Woods Quintet ( Timeless Records ; with Tom Harrell , Hal Galper , Steve Gilmore , Bill Goodwin )
  • 1987: Bop Stew ; Bouquet ( Concord Jazz )
  • 1988: evolution ; Here's to My Lady (Concord)
  • 1988: Embracable You (Philology)
  • 1988: Warm Woods (Epic Records, rec. 1957)
  • 1989: Flash (Concord)
  • 1990: All Bird Children ; Real Life (Concord)
  • 1990: Phil's Mood ( Philology )
  • 1991: Flowers for Hodges (Concord)
  • 1991: Full House ( Milestone )
  • 1994: Just Friends ; Our Monk (Philology)
  • 1995: Plays fhe Music of Jim McNeely (TCB)
  • 1996: Mile High Jazz Live in Denver (Concord)
  • 1996: Astor and Elis (Chesky)
  • 1996: The Complete Concert: Live at the Wigmore Hall, London (JMS; with Gordon Beck)
  • 1997: Celebration! (Concord)
  • 1998: The Rev And I ( Blue Note )
  • 2006: Pass the Bebop (Cowbell Music; with Benjamin Koppel and Alex Riel Trio)
  • 2006: Song for Sysiphus (Passport Audio)
  • 2004: Young Woods ( Fresh Sound , recorded 1956/57)
  • 2005: In Her Eyes (with Bob Lark )
  • 2011: Woods and Mays (with Phil Mays)
  • 2013: Phil Woods & the Festival Orchestra: New Celebration ( Chiaroscuro Records )


Web links

Commons : Phil Woods  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Phil Woods ends his concert career (Jazz-Echo)
  2. ^ Nate Chinen: Phil Woods, saxophonist Revered in Jazz, Dies at 83. In: The New York Times , September 29, 2015 (English). Retrieved September 30, 2015.