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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. He studied music with Lennie Tristano, who influenced him greatly, 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. Although he did not copy Charlie "Bird" Parker, he 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.[1]

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.[1]

In 1979, Woods made the recording More Live at the 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.

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 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.[2]

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.[1] 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 on September 29, 2015, at the age of 83.[3]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Phil Woods among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[4]



With Franco Ambrosetti

With Manny Albam

With Benny Bailey

With Louis Bellson and Gene Krupa

With Bob Brookmeyer

With Kenny Burrell

With Gary Burton

With Benny Carter

With Ron Carter

With the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band

With Al Cohn

With Eddie Costa

  • Eddie Costa Quintet (Interlude, 1957)

With Lou Donaldson

With Bill Evans

With Gil Evans

With Art Farmer

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Stephane Grappelli

  • Classic Sessions: Stephane Grappelli (1987)

With Kenyon Hopkins

  • The Hustler (soundtrack) (Kapp, 1961)

With Milt Jackson

With Billy Joel

With Quincy Jones

With Michel Legrand

  • Legrand Jazz (Philips, 1958)
  • After the Rain (Pablo, 1982)
  • Michel Legrand and Friends (RCA, 1975)

With John Lewis

With Mundell Lowe

With Bryan Lynch

  • Simpático (The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project) (ArtistShare, 2006)
  • Bolero Nights for Billie Holiday (Venus, 2008)

With Herbie Mann

With Gary McFarland

With Nellie McKay

With Carmen McRae

With the Modern Jazz Quartet

With Thelonious Monk

With Oliver Nelson

With Joe Newman

With Anita O'Day

With Pony Poindexter

With Jimmy Raney

  • Jimmy Raney Quintet 10 inch LP (Prestige, 1954)

With Jimmy Raney or Dick Hyman

  • Early Quintets (1953, 1954 (Prestige 1969)

With Lalo Schifrin

With Shirley Scott

With Sahib Shihab

With Jimmy Smith

With Chris Swansen

  • Crazy Horse (Atlas, 1979)

With Billy Taylor

With Clark Terry

With George Wallington

  • Jazz for the Carriage Trade (Prestige 1956)
  • The New York Scene (Prestige 1957)
  • Jazz at Hotchkiss (Savoy, 1957)

With Kai Winding

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