Phil Woods: American jazz musician (1931 - 2015) | Biography
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Phil Woods
American jazz musician

Phil Woods

Phil Woods
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American jazz musician
Was Musician Saxophonist Bandmaster Conductor Clarinetist Composer Jazz musician
From United States of America
Field Music
Gender male
Birth 2 November 1931, Springfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 29 September 2015, Stroudsburg, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, USA (aged 83 years)
Star sign Scorpio
Spouse: Chan Parker
Juilliard School
Manhattan School of Music
NEA Jazz Masters  
Vocal music
Alto saxophone
Phil Woods
The details (from wikipedia)


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


Woods was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. 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. 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.

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.

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". 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.

Phil Woods
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.

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.

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. 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 a little more than three weeks later of emphysema on September 29, 2015, at the age of 83.


  • Grammy Award, Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance: Images, 1975
  • Grammy Award, Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Individual or Group: Live from the Show Boat (1977), More Live (1982), At the Vanguard (1983)
  • NEA Jazz Masters, 2007


As leader/co-leader

Recording date Title Label Year released Notes
Pot Pie with Jon Eardley New Jazz 1963
1955-05 Woodlore Prestige 1956
1956-06 Pairing Off Prestige 1956
1956-11 The Young Bloods with Donald Byrd Prestige 1957
1957-02 Four Altos with Gene Quill, Hal Stein, Sahib Shihab Prestige 1957
1957-03 Phil and Quill with Prestige with Gene Quill Prestige 1957
1957-07 Sugan Status 1965
Warm Woods Epic 1958
Rights of Swing Candid 1961
Greek Cooking Impulse! 1967
1968-06 Alto Summit with Lee Konitz, Pony Poindexter and Leo Wright MPS 1968
1968-11 Alive And Well In Paris Pathé 1968
1969-06 Phil Woods and his European Rhythm Machine at the Montreux Jazz Festival MGM 1970 live
1969-07 Round Trip Verve 1969
1970-03 Phil Woods and his European Rhythm Machine at the Frankfurt Jazz Festival Embryo 1971 live
1972-07 Live At Montreux 72 Verve 1972 live
1974-01 Musique du Bois Muse 1974
1974? New Music by the New Phil Woods Quartet Testament 1974
1975-02 Images with Michel Legrand RCA Victor 1975
1975-07 Phil Woods & The Japanese Rhythm Machine RCA Victor 1976 live
1975-10 –
The New Phil Woods Album RCA Victor 1976
1976-04 Floresta Canto with Chris Gunning Orchestra RCA 1976
1976-11 Live from the Show Boat RCA Victor 1977 [2LP] live
1977 Summer Afternoon Jazz Hindsight 1978
1978-03 I Remember Gryphon 1979
1978? Song for Sisyphus King 1978
1979-05 Phil Woods Quartet Live Clean Cuts 1980 live
1979-05 'More' Live Adelphi 1981
1980-11 European Tour Live Red 1981 live
1980-12 Phil Woods/Lew Tabackin with Lew Tabackin Omnisound 1981
1981-01 Three for All with Tommy Flanagan and Red Mitchell Enja 1981
1982-05 Live from New York Palo Alto 1985 live
1982-10 At the Vanguard Antilles 1983 live
1984-04 Integrity Red 1985 [2LP] live
1984? Piper at the Gates of Dawn with Chris Swansen Sea Breeze Jazz 1984
1984-12 Heaven Evidence 1986
1986-12 Dizzy Gillespie Meets Phil Woods Quintet with Dizzy Gillespie Timeless 1987
1987-11 Bop Stew Concord 1988 live
1987-11 Bouquet Concord 1989 live
1988-05 Evolution Concord 1988
1988-05 Little Big Band Évolution Concord 1988
1988-07 Embracable You Philology 1989
1988-10 My Man Benny, My Man Phil with Benny Carter MusicMasters 1989
1988-12 Here's to My Lady Chesky 1989
1989-04 Flash Concord 1990
1990 Phil's Mood Philology 1990
1990-06 All Bird Children Concord 1991
1990-09 Real Life Concord 1991
1991? Altoist! Rockin' Chair 1991
1991-06 Flowers for Hodges Concord 1991
1991-09 Full House Milestone 1992
1994-06 Just Friends Philology 1997
1994-11 Our Monk Philology 1996
1995-02 Plays the Music of Jim McNeely TCB 1996
1996-03 Another Time, Another Place with Benny Carter Evening Star 1996 live
1996-04 Mile High Jazz Live in Denver Concord 1996 live
1996-05 The Complete Concert with Gordon Beck JMS 1996 [2CD] live
1996-05 Astor and Elis Chesky 1996
1997-01 Celebration! Concord 1997
1997-10 Chasin' The Bird Venus 1998
1998-01 The Rev and I with Johnny Griffin Blue Note 1998
1999-01 Cool Woods somethin' else 1999
2000-05 Phil Woods In Italy 2000 (Chapter 1–7) Philology 2001
2002-06 The Thrill Is Gone Venus 2003
2002 American Songbook with Brian Lynch Kind of Blue 2006
2003? Beyond Brooklyn with Herbie Mann Manchester Craftsmen's Guild 2004 finished weeks before Mann's death
2005-06 Bird With Strings ... And More! Storyville 2023 [2CD] live
2005-09 The Gershwin Affair with Franco D'Andrea Philology 2006
2005-09 Blues For New Orleans with Irio De Paula Philology 2006
2007-01 American Songbook II with Brian Lynch Kind of Blue 2007
2008-06 Ballads & Blues Venus 2009
2009-01 Sing & Play The Phil Woods Songbook (Vol.1 & Vol. 2) with Michela Lombardi Philology 2010
Solitude with The DePaul University Jazz Ensemble Jazzed Media 2010
2010-06 Songs For COTA 2010 with Jesse Green Philology 2010
2010-09 Phil & Bill with Bill Mays Palmetto 2011
2011? Man with the Hat with Grace Kelly Pazz 2011
2013-04 –
New Celebration Chiaroscuro 2013
2014-12 Songs One with Vic Juris Philology 2015


Phil Woods
Woods in Oslo, 2007
  • Altology (Prestige, 1976)[2LP] – rec. 1956–57
  • Into the Woods (The Best of Phil Woods) (Concord, 1996)
  • Moonlight In Vermont (CTI, 2005)[4CD]
  • Complete Quintet And Sextet Sessions 1956-1957 (Fresh Sound, 2007)[2CD]
  • Phil woods (Red, 2019)

As sideman

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 26 Sep 2023. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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