Phil Woods

Philip Wells " Phil" Woods ( born November 2, 1931 in Springfield, Massachusetts) is an American musician of modern jazz.

Musical beginnings

Phil Woods was the first professional musician in his family. The alto saxophone, which he began playing at age twelve, was his first instrument; for four years he learned it private. At age 13, he began playing with a youth band. His first professional engagement, a " gig that lasted longer than a weekend " ( Woods ) gave him an exact contemporary of Springfield, Joe Morello.

Before he moved to New York permanently, he went five weeks there once a week to learn at Lennie Tristano and to buy the latest recording of " Bird". After a summer semester at the Manhattan School of Music, he wrote in 1948 at the Juilliard School of Music for a four-year study of a.

The time at the Juilliard School

Situated on the famous School of Dance, Drama and Music Woods was initially surrounded by many guitarists, it happened that the same five of them came to a session. His main subject was the clarinet. He was interested in classical clarinet playing and wanted to learn as much as possible about the music, rather than focusing exclusively on the jazz scene, which was unfavorable for the acquisition of the necessary musical means his opinion. He did not just play the blues, but to become familiar with other aspects and developments in music. Prior to joining fully in the Jazz, he wanted to learn more. However, on a combination of jazz and classical music, he had no interest, since we are dealing here are completely different categories. But also as a jazz musician should be certain musical techniques dominate, so Woods. He also studied composition. He composed a piano sonata, a string trio and three pieces for solo clarinet. Since then, he has written a more classical works. When he left school, he left to a certain extent also the classic scene. His future, both in composition and playing, he saw in jazz.

When he financial reasons - his wife was expecting a child - participated for two months in Charlie Barnet's band, he learned between the performances for his final exam, which was scheduled for the day after the last performance with the band. On the last evening at the theater his clarinet was stolen, and he had to wait a whole year to make up for the exam, which he was.

Smaller and larger jobs

After Juilliard, he had performed in New York and later with its own combo on Staten Iceland, before beating him one evening a drunken boxer prize with his fist on his mouth and he had to pause for three months. But He had already made ​​his first recording for " Prestige", along with John Wilson, shortly after he signed a contract with the record company. He would not stay, but freelance and never write again at a company that will give him such conditions. He had signed for three years, his contract bein consider two LPs per year to live too little attention to it. He had been, even prevented with a few exceptions, from making recordings for other people. After Staten Iceland, he played in addition to the singer Francis Wayne for a few months with Neal Hefti, including two LPs with the band and one of them. He then played a year in the groove club in Greenwich Village, with Nick Stabulas, George Syran and Teddy Kotick. With Jon Eardley Quintet in Phil's first album was recorded under his own name. Then he played for a month at the Cafe Bohemia with Donald Byrd, Teddy Kotick and Will Bradley Jr.; He expressed satisfaction with this job, it was really quite a contrast to the groove club. The next major engagement was a month at the Birdland Tour, in February 1956, with Kenny Dorham, Conte Candoli, Al Cohn and the rhythm section of Sarah Vaughan. This year, he was a soloist on Quincy Jones ' debut album, This Is How I Feel About Jazz.

Search for the identity

Acquaintance he was working with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band and with the Friedrich Gulda combo. The departure of Gillespie (1957 ) he founded with the slight loss of his identity. Although he had had for a Big Band many ways to improvise, but only 8 cycles per pieces were to become hot enough, and it is also very difficult to hold sixteen people at the same time happy.

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

Pioneer of Neobop

Then he returned to the United States. He worked in Los Angeles and in New York in the studio and recorded with Aretha Franklin, Spyro Gyra, Lena Horne and Michel Legrand. However, he also founded a new combo in which worked for many years Tom Harrell and pianist Hal Galper and the Jim McNeely and Steve Gilmore and Bill Goodwin and received great recognition. With this band Woods wore especially in the revival of bebop. But he also took on with Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Jon Hendricks, Tommy Flanagan, Red Mitchell Marian McPartland or. Currently ( 2011) he lives in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania.

Woods stands on the alto saxophone markedly influenced Charlie Parker. The products developed by this stylistic elements he loosens up by a broader phrasing and changed the tone production by occasional growls and other Bluesreminiszensen if this fits with the melody line.


In 2007 he received the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship.

Discography (selection)