Phil Woods is our Advent Calendar number 13 and he was one of the finest Alto Players of the late 20th and early 21st Century.
Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, Woods began playing the saxophone at the age of 12, and was at first an admirer of Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges. He had a few private lessons in his mid-teens with the pianist Lennie Tristano, and then attended the Manhattan School of Music and then Julliard, (where he studied Clarinet, not saxophone!)
He got his big break playing with Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band in the 1950’s and then went on to make a number of small band recordings in the late 50’s early 1960’s. A move to Paris with Chan Richardson, (Charlie Parker’s former common law wife) led to a more experimental Avant Garde output. He returned to New York in the late 70s, taking on more commercial work, including the incredible sax solo on Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are.
A fine teacher, Woods put his efforts into teaching jazz in the 80s and 90s and became increasingly bestowed with honours for his contribution to music.
Phil Woods died aged 84 on 29th September 2015.