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Phil Woods
Phil Woods 1978.jpg
Woods in 1978
Background information
Birth name Philip Wells Woods
Born (1931-11-02)November 2, 1931
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died September 29, 2015(2015-09-29) (aged 83)
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Alto saxophone, clarinet
Associated acts Buddy Rich, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman

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 Woods1983
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 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


Phil woods oslo 2007 1
Woods in Oslo, 2007

As leader/co-leader

  • 1954– 55: Pot Pie (New Jazz, 1963) with Jon Eardley
  • 1955: Woodlore (Prestige, 1956)
  • 1956: Pairing Off (Prestige, 1956)
  • 1956: The Young Bloods (Prestige, 1957) with Donald Byrd
  • 1957: Four Altos (Prestige) with Gene Quill, Hal Stein, Sahib Shihab
  • 1957: Phil and Quill with Prestige with Gene Quill
  • 1957: Sugan (Status)
  • 1957: Warm Woods (Epic)
  • 1961: Rights of Swing (Candid)
  • 1967: Greek Cooking (Impulse!)
  • 1968: Alto Summit (MPS) with Lee Konitz, Pony Poindexter and Leo Wright
  • 1968: Alive And Well In Paris (Pathé)
  • 1969: Round Trip (Verve)
  • 1970: Phil Woods and his European Rhythm Machine at the Frankfurt Jazz Festival (Embryo)
  • 1970: Phil Woods and his European Rhythm Machine at the Montreux Jazz Festival (MGM)
  • 1972: Live At Montreux 72 (Verve)
  • 1974: New Music by the New Phil Woods Quartet (Testament)
  • 1974: Musique du Bois (Muse)
  • 1975: Floresta Canto (RCA) with Chris Gunning Orchestra
  • 1975: Images (RCA Victor) with Michel Legrand
  • 1976: Phil Woods & The Japanese Rhythm Machine (RCA Victor)
  • 1976: The New Phil Woods Album
  • 1976: Altology (Prestige)
  • 1977: Live from the Show Boat
  • 1977: Summer Afternoon Jazz (Hindsight)
  • 1978: Song for Sisyphus (King (Japan))
  • 1979: I Remember (Gryphon)
  • 1980: Phil Woods Quartet Live (Clean Cuts)
  • 1980: Phil Woods/Lew Tabackin (Omnisound) with Lew Tabackin
  • 1981: Three for All (Enja) with Tommy Flanagan and Red Mitchell
  • 1981: 'More' Live (Adelphi)
  • 1981: European Tour Live (Red)
  • 1982: Live from New York (Palo Alto)
  • 1983: At the Vanguard (Antilles)
  • 1984: Integrity (Red)
  • 1984: Heaven (Evidence)
  • 1984: Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Sea Breeze Jazz) with Chris Swansen
  • 1986: Dizzy Gillespie Meets Phil Woods Quintet (Timeless) with Dizzy Gillespie
  • 1987: Bop Stew; Bouquet (Concord)
  • 1988: Evolution; Here's to My Lady (Concord)
  • 1988 "Little Big Band Évolution"
  • 1989: Embracable You (Philology)
  • 1989: My Man Benny, My Man Phil (MusicMasters) with Benny Carter
  • 1989: Here's to My Lady (Chesky)
  • 1990: Flash (Concord)
  • 1990: Phil's Mood (Philology)
  • 1991: All Bird Children; Real Life (Concord)
  • 1991: Flowers for Hodges (Concord)
  • 1991 "Altoist"
  • 1991: Real Life, The Little Big Band (Chesky)
  • 1992: Full House (Milestone)
  • 1994: Just Friends; Our Monk (Philology)
  • 1995: Plays the Music of Jim McNeely (TCB)
  • 1996: Mile High Jazz Live in Denver (Concord)
  • 1996: Another Time, Another Place (Evening Star) with Benny Carter
  • 1996: Astor and Elis (Chesky)
  • 1996: The Complete Concert (JMS) with Gordon Beck
  • 1997: Celebration! (Concord)
  • 1998: The Rev and I (Blue Note) with Johnny Griffin
  • 1999: Cool Woods (somethin' else)
  • 2003: The Thrill Is Gone (Venus)
  • 2004: Beyond Brooklyn with Herbie Mann, finished weeks before Mann's death
  • 2006: Pass the Bebop (Cowbell) with Benjamin Koppel and Alex Riel Trio
  • 2006: Tel Aviv Jazz Festival (Philology) with Robert Anchipolovsky and Tony Pancella Trio
  • 2006: American Songbook (Kind of Blue) with Brian Lynch
  • 2007: American Songbook, Vol. 2 (Kind of Blue) with Brian Lynch
  • 2009: Ballads & Blues (Venus)
  • 2011: Man with the Hat (Pazz) with Grace Kelly
  • 2011: Phil & Bill with Bill Mays (Palmetto)


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

As sideman

See also

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