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Interview with Phil Woods

phil woods

Jazz is a life force that continues to influence musicians all over the world.

Last week I interviewed Mr. Woods.

Phil Woods was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1931. Springfield, Massachusetts in 1931. After studying at music school, touring jobs with big bands and then small-group with Jimmy Raney (1955) and George Wallington(1956, 1957).

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, bop’s greatest saxophonist, he was known as the New Bird, a label which was also attached to other alto players such as Sonny Stitt and Cannonball Adderley at one time or another in their careers. (wikipedipedia.org)

He played with Dizzy Gillespie big band, including overseas tours (1956), and formed two alto-quintet with Gene Quill (1957). With Buddy Rich quintet (1958-9) and was founder member of Quincy Jones big band (1959-61). Also worked with Benny Goodman (1962) and did considerable amount of studio sessions in the 1960s. Moved to Paris with his then wife Chan Richardson (former consort of Charlie Parker) and formed his European Rhytm Machine quartet. (Brian Priestly, Jazz, the essential companion)

He returned to the United States in 1972. 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 “Just the Way You Are.” He also played the alto sax solo on Steely Dan’s “Doctor Wu,” from their critically acclaimed 1975 album Katy Lied, as well as Paul Simon’s 1975 hit, Have a Good Time.

Although Woods is primarily a saxophonist he is also a fine clarinet player and solos can be found scattered through his recordings. One good example is his clarinet solo onMisirlou on the album Into The Woods (see discography below).

Phil Woods A Life in E Flat-Portrait of a Jazz Legend is a documentary film released in 2005 by Jazzed Media. Directed by Rich Lerner, and produced by Graham Carter, the film offers an intimate portrait of Woods during a recording session of the Jazzed Media albumThis is How I Feel About Quincy. (wikipedia)

Mr. Woods, you’re active in Jazzmusic for more than 60 years, that’s a lifetime. Has Jazzmusic evoluated since you started? We know there are labels for different kinds of music, but (in the core) in what whay is Jazz nowadays different from Modern Jazz?

There has been a big infusion of Latin rhythms first introduced by Dizzy Gillespie and now further developed by musicians such as Paquito D’Rivera and Ignacio Berora and many more.

Which album you produced do you like best? Why?
‘Phil Woods/ Lew Tabackin”, is your best appreciated albums in The Penguin Guide to Jazz. Is this your favourite record too?
This is like asking a father which child is your favorite. My favorite record is my next one.

Do you still visit concerts? (and if so) Do you still learn from your youthful colleagues? Are you inspired by them?
Not as much as I did when I was younger but I still travel – off to Tel Aviv next week and then on to a Jazz Cruise in the Carribean. And yes I am still learning from young players and discovering new things from the Jazz Masters that preceded me.

Charlie Parker. You’ve been a long-time fan. He’s been an example for generations of (jazz)musicians. This year it’s 58 years ago he died (as many great musicians you played with passed last six decades). What does this mean to you?
Bird, Dizzy and Monk revolutionized the world and continue to do so. They mean everything to me – my life time heroes!

Mundell Lowe said to me three months ago: “Jazz is a growing musical force. It will keep expanding and growing for many years to come. And it is after al, one of the only art forms that we, the USA has produced. ” Do you agree with him?
Yes I do. Mundell was a dear friend and knows what he is talking about.

Is there Jazz in the future? Jazz is the most recorded musicstyle by now, but do you think Jazz will reach our youth?
Jazz will never die. Too many good men gave their lives to this music. Jazz is a life force that continues to influence musicians all over the world.

The Midnight Sun Will Never Set:

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