Reviews
Grace Kelly and Phil Woods at the Colonial

 

By: Charles Giuliano - 10/16/2011

It was five years ago to the day when the 75-year-old NEA Jazz Master, alto player Phil Woods, first performed on stage at the Colonial Theatre with the then 14-year-old alto prodigy, Grace Kelly.

That was year two of the annual Pittsfield City Jazz Festival organized by the resourceful, dedicated, and titubating Ed Bride.

The two musicians had met a month before jamming on stage in Pittsfield. That event has become a part of jazz history.

Woods is known as The Man with a Hat. That evening he was so blown away by the teenager’s chops that he literally passed, not a torch, but the hat itself. It was the highest and most personal honor that an artist of one generation might bestow on another. The more remarkable as it spanned not one but two generations.

Since then they have performed often together and toured in Europe.  In the lobby after the show Kelly was on hand to autograph items for fans including a briskly selling CD Grace Kelly Phil Woods: Man with the Hat.

(www.gracekellymusic.com, 2011, PAZZ Productions, LLC. PO Box 471059, Brookline, Mass. 02447, $15)

I bought one and popped it into the car stereo for a serenade on the way home. It contained some of the material performed last night which, wouldn’t you know it, was being recorded for a memorial Live DVD.

The group on the album includes Kelly, alto and vocals, Woods, Monty Alexander, piano and keyboards, Evan Gregor, bass, Bill Goodwin, drums, and Jordan Perlson, percussion. The Colonial set featured Doug Johnson on piano and Perlson was not on stage.

Woods, who grew up in the Springfield area, introduced a former neighbor, Greg Caputo, to sit in on drums for a couple of tunes. He brought down the house with a solo which my aficionado buddy, Robert Henriquez, compared to such legends as Buddy Rich and Max Roach.

During a brief chat back stage before the gig Woods reeled off a list of outstanding players from the Springfield area. Why Springfield? Dig it man. Just dudes laying back and stretching out in the country.

Jazz is wherever the cats get together to groove.

Like Pittsfield baby. Ain’t that something?

Especially as we caught glimpses of the passing of the torch with the hope of a coming generation of artists. Not just the headlining Kelly and Woods but a remarkable opening set by the 18 piece Berkshire Jazz Youth Ensemble.

From all over Berkshire County it is quite an accomplishment to bring together such a swinging band. Particularly given that there had been only five rehearsals they were just terrific. The band with oh so talented youngsters spent the afternoon rehearsing with Kelly. She gave a class and also fronted a tune. The BJYE performs original charts from the big band era including classics by Count Basie.

At the now ripe old age of 19 Kelly is the real deal. Not just a phenom she is a fully mature artist with truly masterful chops. Her playing is subtle, rich in velvety tone, inventive, and stunningly intelligent. The norm for such a young player is to imitate the elders. That may have been the starting point. There are stories of her family sitting around on Sundays grooving to Stan Getz. But on every level she has developed her own style which is up there with the best of the best of the legendary masters.

But as Henriquez commented while we sat there just blown away “With a wonderful freshness.”

It is so evident in the way she moves to and absorbs the music. There was an infectious smile as she would glance over and appreciate the playing of Woods. Then fall in to match him lick for lick and then some. As a younger player she has more stamina evident in long flowing lines, bent notes, and fleeting runs in the upper register. Compared to which Woods has a more flat out, robust, hard bop sound that speaks to decades of life experience. What Kelly lacks in that regard she makes up for in raw talent, intensity, and feeling.

And she can sing. Man can she sing.

We were just in orbit when she ended the set returning to the stage for an encore of “The Nearness of You” accompanied by Johnson on piano. With stunning showmanship she moved to the edge of the stage and sat on the steps. It was an endearing gesture of intimacy with the audience.

It was an indicator of her stage craft and showmanship. During a medley of three songs with the superb bass player Gregor she improvised. On the spot she wove a story line with an oh so local slant about the joy of performing in Pittsfield. Yes. That’s right. Pittsfield. It made us feel so good to be there and share in this unique experience.

The style and playing of Woods and Kelly are incredibly compatible. I commented to Henriquez that one would fail the blindfold test when listening to the CDs which we both purchased. That proved to be absolutely true while I listened on the drive home. It will take careful and prolonged attentive listening to pull them apart. And when they play together, well, that’s just sublime.

Last night they opened with the tune that they first jammed on five years ago “I Remember April.” It proved to be an extended jam as they stretched out. Kelly wrote a tribute to Woods which they performed and is the title track of their CD “Man with a Hat.” From the recording they followed with “People Time.”

Mid set Woods left the stage for a break. Caputo sat in and brought the music to a new level. Then Kelly introduced an original blues with a Crescent City twist which she calls “Philosophical Flying Fish.” For this she switched to a curved soprano sax.

During the performance she would frequently change reeds. Seems she puts them through their paces and is such a perfectionist. This is something I have never seen before. Now and then a musician might change reeds but not with such frequency during a set.

Despite her superb alto playing, for me, the emotional highlight of the evening was a medley of three songs accompanied by bass- “Home is Where the Heart Is” “No More Blues” and “Bye Bye Blackbird.” It is on the last of the trilogy that she vamped with the local twist.

Her vocal style closely follows her alto playing with the same subtle dips, slides,  stretches, and dives. She has a soft, subtle voice and an easy lilting delivery. With a passion beyond her years she made us feel how she wanted to embrace us as surrogate lovers in her arms. This from a girl not legally old enough to drink. Just imagine when she grows up and adds the rigors of romance to those torch and saloon songs.

When Woods returned they skid out with a scorcher Bud Powell’s “Web City.”

Best of all I can’t wait for the DVD of Live at the Colonial. What a thrill it will be to recall having been there.

Jazz in Pittsfield. Ain't that a hoot.

We sure could use a whole lot of that there. Youzah.

 
Phil Woods: Ballads & Blues, Live at the Jazz Showcase, The Children's Suite

by Greg Thomas

Alto saxophonist Phil Woods is a consummate musician whose mastery of improvisation is second to none. He extends from the holy alto trinity—Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges, Charlie Parker—and has carved a distinctive, influential style. If Paul Desmond's sound is akin to a dry martini, Woods' is like high-grade cognac, sensual and luxurious, burnished with virile delight that warms your body.

His apprenticeship with Charlie Barnet, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson, Buddy Rich, Thelonious Monk and Clark Terry prepared him for leadership, especially of his quartets and quintets, which, over the past 30+ years, have included bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin. The three recordings here feature these rhythm section stalwarts, who provide sympathetic support for Woods in any context.

 

 
The Children's Suite

by Andrew Velez

Well of course. NEA Jazz Master Phil Woods' The Children's Suite, inspired by the verses of A.A. Milne. Woods has been widely and wildly prolific throughout his career since his early small group days as a teenager, blowing ebulliently with Jimmy Raney and George Wallington, so it should be no surprise that he's created musical settings for these beloved poems from Now We Are Six, featuring Christopher Robin and his imaginary friend Pooh. Along with an industrial-strength orchestra, he's joined by two vocalists, jazz great Bob Dorough and Vicki Doney, as well as actor Peter Dennis, the latter being the only one authorized by the Milne estate to recite his poetry.

 

 
Alive and Well in Paris
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods & His European Rhythm Machine was a brilliant though short-lived quartet that made a handful of albums between 1968 and 1973, though most of them are long out of print. Happily, this early studio effort, with pianist George Gruntz, bassist Henri Texier, and drummer Daniel Humair, has been reissued in Japan by Toshiba-EMI, all of whom provide first-rate rhythmic support and make the most of their solos. The leader's "And When We Are Young" was written in tribute to Senator Robert Kennedy, who was gunned down by a cowardly assassin in the spring of 1968 in the midst of Kennedy's celebration of his presidential primary victory in California. The piece begins with a mournful dirge before cutting loose with some wailing post-bop. "Alive and Well" is a miniature, bursting with energy from start to finish. The latter half of the session focuses upon works written by other jazz musicians. The lightening unison runs by Woods and Gruntz are only an introductory teaser to Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance"; this up-tempo rendition would quickly wear out anyone trying to keep up with it on the dancefloor. Likewise, Woods' interpretation of Oliver Nelson's landmark work "Stolen Moments" is a tad faster than the composer's famous version; Woods' alto sax almost seems like a clarinet in the softly played lower passages, and Texier's solo is a gem. A brief sign off of Sonny Rollins' "Doxy" wraps this highly recommended CD.
 
Corridonia Jazz Festival
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods' second recording with pianist Enrico Pieranunzi's Space Jazz Trio is once again a meeting of jazz masters. Woods' reputation among greats of the alto sax needs no further commentary, but Pieranunzi and drummer , one of the finest musicians in Europe and a brilliant composer to boot, is deserving of greater recognition in the U.S. With bassist Enzo PietropaoliRoberto Gatto providing the rest of the potent rhythm section, Woods and Pieranunzi explore one another's compositions with gusto. Woods' two contributions include a remake of "Quill" (a tribute to his former musical partner, alto saxophonist Gene Quill) as driving hard bop with great solos by both men and Pietropaoli. They also revisit the alto saxophonist's "Song for Sisyphus," which begins as a mournful ballad before erupting into a brisk swinging arrangement. The pianist contributed four original works, including the constantly shifting "Chet" (a perfect salute to the complicated life of Chet Baker) and the turbulent post-bop "Phil's Mood," which honors Woods. Pieranunzi also wrote the bittersweet ballad "Hindsight," which is a rare opportunity to hear Woods' tremendous chops on clarinet, an instrument he plays only occasionally on recordings. Concluding this CD are a rhapsodic version (with an unbelievable solo introduction by Woods) of "Lover Man" and a long but never dull workout of "Anthropology." Highly recommended.
 
A Jazz Life
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods is heard in a wide range of settings on A Jazz Life, a CD compilation issued by Philology, the Italian label named after the veteran alto saxophonist. Although it isn't clear if the tapes came from Woods' private collection or from other sources, there are many memorable tracks in this collection of previously unreleased performances. Some of the many highlights include Woods' tight solo feature in "Yesterdays" with Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band during its 1956 tour of South America; the exciting post-bop "Executive Suite" with his European Rhythm Machine; a delicious take of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" with pianist Ole Kock Hansen and bassist Niels Pedersen; and finally an exciting workout of "Donna Lee" with fellow alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, who sits in with Woods' regular group (Steve Gilmore, Bill Goodwin, and Harry Leahey, though Mike Melillo evidently sat out this number). Woods also sits in with various pickup groups and larger ensembles. Although the fidelity varies widely in this anthology, it never falls below an acceptable level. This rare music should greatly appeal to fans of Woods.
 
Play Rava
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods and Lee Konitz performed several sets together with a variety of Italian jazz musicians during the 2003 Umbria Jazz Festival, so it is fortunate that Paolo Piangiarelli, owner of the Philology label, arranged to record and issue four separate CDs. This volume adds trumpeter and flügelhornist Enrico Rava as a special guest, who also contributes three extended compositions. The sextet digs into his mysterious "Certi Angoli Segreti" with a spirit of adventure. "Full of Life" would have been perfectly at home during the heyday of the bop era; this interpretation features terrific interplay between the two alto saxophonists. Rava's "Theme for Jessica" is set to a perky bossa nova rhythm as the three horn players alternately play in unison and off of one another. Konitz and Woods take turns in the spotlight during the long medley. The rhythm section (pianist Stefano Bollani, bassist Ares Tavolazzi, and drummer Roberto Gatto) shines in "Poinciana." Italian singer Barbara Casini (who is deserving of wider recognition, like many Italian artists) is added for a sensual rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim's bittersweet "Retrato em Branco e Preto." Recommended.
 
Play Woods
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods and Lee Konitz had a great time sharing the stage with a number of Italian musicians over a several-day stretch at the 2003 Umbria Jazz Festival. With the Philology label on-hand to tape the concerts, four volumes were put together, with this edition concentrating on Woods' considerable skill as a composer. The contrast between the two alto saxophonists makes for interesting interplay, meshing Woods' robust melodic approach with Konitz's dryer, more dissonant style, while consistently producing great music. The snappy "Squire's Parlor" is a terrific opener to introduce the band, which includes pianist Andrea Pozza, Massimo Moriconi, and drummer Massimo Manzi. The lush waltz "Petite Chanson" has a bittersweet air, followed by Woods' memorable tribute to the late Benny Carter (another master of great melodies and the alto sax), "My Man Benny." It was only natural to follow it with one of Carter's greatest works, the lush ballad "Summer Serenade," which is beautifully interpreted. This may very well mark the first occasion that Woods has recorded "Johnny Hodges" (another tribute to a legendary alto saxophonist) without also singing the lyrics. "Body and Soul" has been recorded so often, one would think it was in danger of becoming hackneyed, but that is impossible with two masters as experienced as Konitz (who kicks it off into fresh territory with his challenging reworking of the melody) and Woods. Barbara Casini joins them on the final track, in a lovely rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Fotografia." Like all Phil Woods or Lee Konitz CDs released by the small but prolific Philology label, this one is a very worthwhile investment.
 
Play Henry Mancini
by Ken Dryden
Producer Graham Carter deserves high praise for pairing alto sax legend Phil Woods with trumpeter/ flugelhornist Carl Saunders in a CD tribute to Henry Mancini. The two veterans gelled quickly with the rhythm section (pianist Jeff Jenkins, bassist Ken Walker, and drummer Paul Romaine), though Woods had never worked with any of them, and Saunders only with Romaine. A variety of arrangers scored the music for this session. "The Pink Panther" was the inevitable opener, though Woods and Saunders put their own stamp on this slinky, swinging masterpiece. Likewise, the gorgeous "Dreamsville" has been a favorite of jazz musicians, and this interpretation features some of the lushest solos by the two leaders on the date. The extended rendition of "Two for the Road" has several magical exchanges between Woods and Saunders (here on flugelhorn). But most of the tunes aren't as well known. The breezy "Lightly" is given a Latin flavor, while "Walkin' Bass" is a blues featuring Ken Walker's tasty bassline underneath Woods and Saunders (on muted trumpet). Their jaunty take of "Goofin' at the Coffee House," like "Lightly," is another hidden gem originally written for the Peter Gunn television series. This rewarding salute to what would have been Henry Mancini's 80th birthday should be considered essential; it can be found through www.jazzedmedia.com.
 
Blues for New Orleans
by Ken Dryden
One of the benefits of Phil Woods' association with Paolo Piangiarelli's Philology label is that it has given him an opportunity to collaborate with a number of European-based musicians with whom he might not have otherwise had the opportunity to make a record. The first meeting between the alto saxophonist and guitarist Irio De Paula in 2000 for the label, titled Encontro, was an inspired date and this 2005 follow-up session is as well. Drawing mostly from a mix of standards and well-known jazz compositions, Woods and De Paula obviously regained their earlier chemistry shortly after reuniting in the studio. Although many of the tracks run eight to nine minutes and it is just the two of them with no additional accompanists, Woods and De Paula never run out of ideas or overstay their welcome. Some highlights include the playful "Honeysuckle Rose," the intricate "Nuages" (with a lush solo introduction by e Paula), the delightful bossa nova setting of "Night and Day" and the passionate, extended workout of "Tenderly." Woods and De Paula improvised the spirited"Blues For New Orleans," named in honor of the devastated Crescent City, which had been nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina just a few weeks before the recording session.
 
Play Konitz
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods and Lee Konitz have performed together on occasion throughout their long careers, though relatively few have been recorded for commercial release. Fortunately, they played several sets together during the 2003 Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy, so this Philology CD is one of four volumes which came from these concerts. The two musicians are easy to tell apart as Konitz's dryer, more dissonant style contrasts with Woods' boisterous, very melodic approach; yet together, they blend beautifully. With an outstanding rhythm section consisting of pianist Franco D'Andrea, bassist Massimo Moriconi, and drummer Massimo Manzi, the two alto saxophonists have a blast exploring Konitz's compositions, starting with the explosive opener, "Thingin'" (based on the standard "All the Tings You Are"). Konitz's late musical partner, tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh, composed the playful "Bop Goes the Leesel," an adventurous takeoff on the childhood nursery rhyme. Although labeled as a medley of three tunes, the sixth track is actually a fascinating and occasionally chaotic blend of two songs based on the chord changes to "What Is This Thing Called Love": Tadd Dameron's "Hot House" and Konitz's "Subconcsious-Lee." Each musician on-stage gets a turn in the solo spotlight to good effect. Singer Barbara Casini joins the two veterans for two effective interpretations of Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova classics, "Outra Vez" and "Voce e Eu." Fans of either saxophonist will consider this CD to be an essential purchase.
 
Phil & Lee: Two Brothers in Three Flats
by Ken Dryden
What looks on the surface to be a fairly straightforward set by Phil Woods and Lee Konitz during their several days performing together at the 2003 Umbira Jazz Festival in Pescara, Italy, is anything but that. Konitz invites the audience to hum a sustained note to support his intricate free improvisation, with Woods joining him after a bit, gradually segueing into an intriguing take of "Alone Together." This sets the table for most of the CD, as the alto saxophonists play freely as they slowly work their way into other standards including "Just Friends," "Cherokee," and a full reprise of "Alone Together." Konitz is unaccompanied in the dissonant exploration of "I Remember You," while Woods is mesmerizing with his dash through "Cherokee." Each alto saxophonist takes a turn at the piano as well in support of his partner, Woods in "My Old Flame" and Konitz during the wild finale "Free With Phil & Lee." The unusual "Scattin' With Phil & Lee" finds the two men putting down their instruments and scatting improvised lines together, with Konitz playing a bit of piano as well. Stefano Bollani takes over the piano for a powerful duet of "Everything Happens to Me" with Konitz. Franco D'Andrea is at the keyboard for the jaunty duet with Woods of "In Walked Bud." This is one of the assets of a small independent label; it would be hard to imagine a major jazz label issuing a CD such as this brilliant effort, let alone simultaneously releasing three other CDs by the same pair of musicians recorded during the same festival. The excellent sound adds to the considerable value of this adventurous meeting between Phil Woods and Lee Konitz.
 
The Thrill is Gone
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods is right at home during these 2002 sessions at Red Rock Recording Studio near his home in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. With his regular group (Bill Charlap, Steve Gilmore, and Bill Goodwin) minus trumpeter Brian Lynch, Woods adds strings conducted by his old friend Eric Doney on this collection of ballads. "And When We're Young" is the alto saxophonist's tribute to the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated around the time it was written. The leader's lush alto gives way to a brisk Latin-flavored passage featuring powerful solos by violinist Andy Stein and Charlap on piano, while Woods humorously detours into "Nature Boy" upon his return. The strings introduce a lively arrangement of "It Never Entered My Mind," and another favorite of the alto saxophonist, "If I Should Lose You." Unlike many jazz recordings with strings, they complement rather than overwhelm the musicians. But it is almost impossible for a Phil Woods-led date to turn out less than excellent. This highly recommended Venus CD, issued only in Japan, can be acquired through www.ejazzlines.com.
 
Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods' recordings with his short-lived European Rhythm Machine are among the most adventurous of his career, though few of them have been available in the CD era. This 1969 concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival features the alto saxophonist with pianist Phil Woods' recordings with his short-lived European Rhythm MachineGeorge Gruntz, bassist Henri Texier and drummer Daniel Humair in a wide ranging set. Gruntz's "Capricci Cavaleschi" begins with slash-and-burn solos by both Woods and Gruntz before giving way to Texier's soft solo, which is backed by Humair's hand drumming. Liner note writer Leonard Feather's bluesy tribute to Charlie Parker, "I Remember Bird," is revisited by Woods with gusto. Carla Bley's samba-flavored "Ad Infinitum" is especially appealing, while a blazing (though brief) run through Herbie Hancock's "Riot," features the leader's almost screaming sax (backed initially only by Humair) closes the set with a flourish. Long unavailable, this rewarding album was finally reissued on CD in the summer of 2003.
 
Giants At Play
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods has made so many outstanding recordings that critics can struggle to find new words of praise, but this duo date, recorded in Woods' home with pianist John Coates, ranks with the best of them. The incredibly warm, intimate sound makes it seem like one is attending an informal meeting between two old friends, which of course the two musicians are, having worked together on two earlier releases for Omnisound in the 1970s. Woods never coasts, always finding something new within any piece, whether playing it for the first time or the thousandth; his always-emotional solos seem to sing to the listener. Coates, who isn't as well known because of his infrequent touring and recording, should surprise those not familiar with him and delight those who remember his earlier works. Coates takes a very fresh approach to "Embraceable You," giving it a sort of loping country flavor, as Woods' matchless alto sax swings mightily. The pianist also sets the table beautifully for Woods with a breathtaking solo introduction to the infrequently heard ballad "An Affair to Remember." The pianist also contributed three fine originals to the session. Woods switches to clarinet (an instrument on which he excels, but never plays often enough) for another lost treasure, "How Can We Be Wrong." The finale opens with yet another memorable solo by Coates, as they wrap with an easygoing treatment of the old chestnut "Cherokee." This is one of many highly recommended releases to come from Eric Doney's small but essential Pacific ST label; this CD can be obtained through www.pacificstrecords.com.
 
You And The Night And The Music
by Ken Dryden
It's little surprise that the Phil Woods Quintet shines during this collection of standards from the movies, but their fresh approach to each of these very familiar songs is what makes this release special. With charts by the leader, trumpeter Brian Lynch, and pianist Jim McNeely, the group devours each of the nine pieces with strong solos and beautiful interplay to boot. "You and the Night and the Music" gets things off to a brisk beginning, with bassist Steve Gilmore initially playing the melody with tasty unison licks behind him. Both of Branislau Kaper's songs ("Invitation" and "On Green Dolphin Street") are old warhorses that would seem to be in danger of overexposure, but both pieces feature off-of-center arrangements that make them stand out from the slew of recordings available of them. The only reason to hesitate to purchase this Japanese CD on the Venus label is that it was reissued the following year by Evidence with an additional track ("Over the Rainbow") which was omitted from the original release. In any case, it is an essential CD for fans of the great Phil Woods.
 
Woods Plays Woods
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods was obviously very pleased with this studio session, one of seven CDs recorded for "Philology" in a five-day span during May 2000. His liner notes boast of the musicianship of the Italian Rhythm Machine (pianist Stefano Bollani, bassist Ares Tavolazzi, and drummer Massimo Manzi), who nailed everything on the first take, while one can take it for granted that Woods' highly regarded chops on alto sax are present. This release, dedicated to Wood's son, Garth, is primarily a showcase for the leader's underrated talents as a composer. "Samba Du Bois" is an exciting opener that compares very well with an earlier version from Woods' 1974 session, Musique du Bois. His gorgeous memorial tribute to Bill Evans, "Goodbye Mr. Evans," packs an emotional punch in an extended performance with some beautiful backing lines by Bollani. "Sittin' Here" is a laid-back strut that will likely provoke finger-snapping by the listener. The one track not composed by Woods is Sammy Cahn's classic "It's You or No One," which provides a brisk finale to an immaculately recorded and very entertaining session.
 
Voce E Eu
by Ken Dryden
Among the surprises that producer Paolo Piangiarelli pulled on Phil Woods during a marathon seven recording sessions over a span of five days during the spring of 2000 was matching him with pianist Stefano Bollani and singer Barbara Casini, neither of whom were familiar to Woods, in a program of classics performed by the late Elis Regina, who was Woods' favorite Brazilian singer. Her voice is lovely, with wonderful emotion, clear enunciation, and flawless timing. Casini is best on ballads such as "Fotografia," but she's also up to the demands of the rapid-fire pieces like "Cai Dentro" without running out of breath. Woods' personal highlight may be his gorgeous playing on the ballad "Avarandado," although he is in top form throughout the date. As Woods surmised in his notes, a rhythm section would be a superfluous addition since the talented Bollani takes care of that role by himself, as well as providing a variety of interesting supporting lines for the singer and the saxophonist. This is the kind of session that should get those not familiar with Elis Regina to look for her recordings, too. Hopefully, this meeting between Phil Woods, Stefano Bollani, and Barbara Casini will have a follow-up during a future trip to Italy by the saxophonist.
 
Woods Plays D'Andrea
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods has recorded a number of excellent CDs for Philology with pianist Franco D'Andrea; on this occasion, one of seven sessions by Woods recorded in just five days during May of 2000, they (along with drummer Ellade Bandini and bassist Massimo Moriconi) focus exclusively on works by D'Andrea. The alto saxophonist is in great form throughout the date, as is the rhythm section. The music proves to be demanding but the musicians are up to its challenges. The opener, "U-Boat," is a hard-driving bop vehicle that seems like a very well-disguised reworking of the chord changes to "What Is This Thing Called Love?" "Blueberries" shows off Woods' considerable lyricism. The choppy, somewhat dissonant, and very playful "T.M." obviously is named in honor of Thelonious Monk, and this piece was a lot of fun for the quartet. "Phil Rouge" is a rather intricate blues tune dedicated to Woods. The soft ballad "Quiet Children" features Moriconi extensively, while "Looping" gives Bandini a turn in the spotlight. D'Andrea's compositions may not become jazz standards, but they stand up very well to repeated listening. As are all of Phil Woods' Philology CDs, Woods Plays D'Andrea is warmly recommended.
 
The Solo Album
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods recorded a series of seven CDs within a space of five days for Paolo Piangiarelli's Philology label during May 2000, and this fourth volume may be the most special to the veteran saxophonist's heart. As a special tribute to his mother and father, who were very supportive of his decision to become a musician, Woods is featured in his first truly solo release. Listening to his unaccompanied flights on alto sax is a joy, as the listener can add his or her own rhythm section in their head (if necessary). His opening ballad medley -- including "Stardust," "I'm Glad There Is You," and the less well-known "Be My Love" -- is simply breathtaking, closely followed by his superb medley ("Cool Blues," "Yardbird Suite," and "Cherokee") in tribute to Charlie Parker and another ("Out of Nowhere," "The Song Is You," and "I Only Miss Her When I Think of Her") to honor his good friend Benny Carter. Woods also plays composer-style piano on several of his originals, starting with the reflective "Aimee" and adding a friendly vocal as well on several numbers, including "Randi" (a tribute to the late Randi Hultin, who was well-known for hosting American jazz musicians during their tours of Europe), the choppy yet catchy "Where Do We Go From Here," and an amusing dismissal of critics in "The Last Page," while making light of his limitations as a pianist and singer. It is doubtful that many saxophonists would dare to record a CD such as this one in a single afternoon, and few label owners remain ambitious enough to support projects like this one. While this CD will be of interest especially to longtime fans of Phil Woods, anyone who has picked up a few of his numerous releases should also check it out.
 
Encontro (on Jobim)
by Ken Dryden
This is a landmark recording for Phil Woods (one of seven CDs produced during a five-day period during May 2000 for Philology) because it marks the first time he has played clarinet exclusively throughout a session. Not familiar with the work of Brazilian guitarist Irio De Paula prior to this duo date, Woods was dazzled by his stunning interpretations of the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, so he left his alto sax in the case and opted for the warm chalumeau sound of the clarinet instead. All but two of the songs are from the vast Jobim songbook, including the exquisite opener, "Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar," a magical "Corcovado," and the lively "A Felicidade." The two standards not written by Jobim, "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Autumn Leaves," have rarely sounded as lovely. Woods' considerable skill on the clarinet is badly underrated because he has not been heard playing it often enough, while De Paula clearly deserves wider recognition outside his native land. This highly recommended CD will help to rectify these oversights.
 
Dameronia
by Ken Dryden
suggested the music of Phil Woods meets some of Italy's promising up-and-coming players on this studio session, one of seven recorded in only five days during May 2000 for Philology. Producer Paolo PiangiarelliTadd Dameron for the session, which provides a spark that sets the group on fire from the start. The songs are primarily Dameron's best-known works, including the sensational ballad "If You Could See Me Now" and the timeless bop anthem "Hot House," as well as the somewhat lesser-known Dameron ballad "You Are a Joy." Old friend Franco D'Andrea, who has worked on several Philology projects with Woods, provides his usual strong support on piano, along with bassist Massimo Moriconi and drummer Lorenzo Tucci. Trumpeter Fabrizo Bosso is also up to the task of working with Woods and makes the most of the opportunity. Alto saxophonist Rosario Giuliani (who also served as the musical director for the project) is not overwhelmed by Woods' long-since-proven chops on his instrument and shows lots of spirit in his fine playing, which clearly made an impression on the veteran; he also wrote the lively original blues "The Dreams That Comes True" with Woods in mind, which provides a memorable set-closer. This exciting bop session is highly recommended.
 
Balladeer Supreme
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods and Franco D'Andrea join forces once again for a duo date for Philology, one of seven incredible recording sessions in which Woods took part during five days in the spring of 2000. The CD is dedicated to the memory of Woods' daughter Aimee. The very first track, "Blues for Aimee," opens with Woods' unaccompanied alto sax almost seeming to utter her name in a plaintive outburst, then the pianist joins him for the remainder of this powerful, jointly credited piece, which was likely either improvised or fleshed out just prior to its recording. The remainder of the date features a mix of timeless standards as only musicians the caliber of Woods and D'Andrea can interpret them. "Almost Like Being in Love" has a jaunty confident air, while the extended explorations of "Autumn in New York" and "Prelude to a Kiss" are masterpieces. Woods switches to clarinet (which he never uses often enough on recordings!) for magical interpretations of "Sweet Lorraine" and "Someone to Watch Over Me." Like all sessions featuring Phil Woods on his namesake label, this CD is highly recommended.
 
SWR Big Band: Jazz Matinee
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods is a guest of the SWR Big Band on this German CD, which was taped live in the spring of 1996. This decades-old orchestra provides not only superb backing for the legendary alto saxophonist, but also features several talented soloists joining Woods throughout the concert. The infrequently heard "Serpent's Tooth" (written by Miles Davis) starts this concert with a burst of adrenaline, with brief but effective solos by Woods and trumpeter Karl Farrent. "Willow Weep for Me" has long been a part of Woods' playbook, and his arrangement utilizing Davis' "All Blues" as a supporting vamp and incorporating a bit of dissonance never grows stale. Woods switches to clarinet and is joined only by the rhythm section for a swinging take of "Sweet Lorraine," which also spotlights pianist Klaus Wagenleiter and a potent arco bass solo by Henning Sieverts. Much of the program focuses upon Woods' tremendous skills as a composer, including the lightly swinging "My Man Benny"; the more boisterous "Quill," which has lusty alto sax solos by Klaus Graf and Bernd Rabe as well as by Woods; the snappy "Reet's Neet" and the emotional "Goodbye Mr. Evans" (written following pianist Bill Evans' untimely death); and finally, the inevitable, joyful closer, "How's Your Mama," Woods' longtime theme song, which has a rapid exchange of brief solos featuring many different players. Phil Woods seems to rise to the occasion no matter what the setting, but the strong performance of the SWR Big Band also helps to make this a highly recommended CD.
 
Porgy & Bess
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods is actually the guest soloist on this CD by the Jazz Class Orchestra, an Italian big band led and arranged by Gabriel Corneglio. The jaunty opener is "Summertime," complete with a swaggering alto solo by Woods, who is at his best throughout the date. "Here Come de Honey Man" opens with a fine bass solo by Marco Micheli, then takes on a calypso feeling; there's no one listed playing soprano sax on this piece, but it almost has to be Woods because of the fierceness of the attack. "Fisherman, Strawberry and the Devil Crab" is an engaging miniature featuring a brief drum solo by Alfredo Golino. A strutting take of "It Ain't Necessarily So" showcases fine section work by the orchestra and a darting solo by Woods. The sad ballad "My Man's Gone Now" is reworked into a driving Latin-flavored chart. Although this can't be considered an essential CD for fans of Phil Woods, those who pick it up won't be disappointed.
 
Chasin' The Bird
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods is at the peak of his powers during these 1997 sessions for Venus, leading his regular quintet (Brian Lynch, Bill Charlap, Steve Gilmore, and Bill Goodwin) through a set of songs he's played for decades, along with some originals likely written for this outing. The alto saxophonist navigates Charlie Parker's "Chasin' the Bird" and "Charlie's Wig" with the finesse of the master that he is. The interplay between the leader and Lynch in the former tune indicates that the younger musician is a force to be reckoned with. They also work well together in the dissonant "Israel," long a favorite of boppers. Woods' unaccompanied introduction to "Everything Happens to Me" is simply breathtaking. Woods is also a fairly prolific composer. "Autumn Thieves" is a barely disguised reworking of the standard "Autumn Leaves" (also indicating his love of puns in the title) that swings nicely. The source of the rapid fire "Clinicology" is a little less obvious at first ("Cherokee"), though little doubt remains once the quintet gets cooking. Lynch contributed "Tribute to Blue," a strutting, yet very lyrical hard bop vehicle. Charlap, who has since left the group to lead his own trio, is one of the greatest pianists of his generation. Gilmore and Goodwin have continuously worked with Woods since 1975; enough said. This highly recommended but tough-to-find import CD is available through www.ejazzlines.com.
 
Just Friends
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods recorded frequently for the Philology label during the '90s with various supporting casts, but the results were never less than excellent. Only five of the ten pieces on this CD feature Woods with both pianist Renato Sellani and bassist Massimo Moriconi, so calling this a trio date is a little misleading. While neither man reaches the level of Woods' regular pianists or bassists over the past 25 years, they provide more than adequate support for the leader's always creative playing. A tasty mid-tempo ride through "Yesterdays" and the extended live version of "Just Friends" are the best trio tracks; while Sellani's sensitive accompaniment on "Laura" and "Everything Happens to Me" inspires Woods to his greatest heights.
 
Elsa
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods' prolific recordings for the Italian label Philology (which is named in his honor) are always enjoyable; this duo concert with pianist Enrico Pieranunzi is no exception. The creativity of both men during a jaunty "Have You Met Miss Jones?" would be a difficult standard for any group to match during a live performance, yet the duo does just that, seemingly without effort. A very lyrical take of "September Song," followed by "Someday My Prince Will Come" (with a particularly dreamy introduction), Phil's well-known gritty arrangement of "Willow Weep for Me," and a spacy take of the classic "You and the Night and the Music" all prove to be equally compelling. The alto saxophonist also revisits "Goodbye Mr. Evans," his touching elegy to pianist Bill Evans. Pieranunzi contributes two memorable numbers: "Night Bird," a piece also featured on Phil Woods & the Space Jazz Trio's earlier Philology CD Phil's Mood, and "Chet," a moody yet warm tribute to Chet Baker (with whom he recorded on Baker's final studio album). Hopefully, there will be many more collaborations involving these two greats.
 
Complete Concert: Live at the Wigmore Hall, London
by Ken Dryden
Although alto saxophone great Phil Woods made several duo sessions with pianists during the 1990s, this concert with Gordon Beck, one of the pianists from his European Rhythm Machine (the other was George Gruntz), is easily the best of the lot. The musicians take their time stretching out on timeless standards like Cole Porter's "Everything I Love," with Beck offering a long, dazzling solo introduction before Woods joins him on his lyrical yet too infrequently heard clarinet. Their spirited take of Miles Davis' "Solar" features extended solo passages by each man, while the snappy take of Joe Henderson's "Isotope" is bop at its best. Beck's solo introduction to Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" is imaginative, while Woods also is clearly enjoying himself on this time-tested standard. Beck tackles Bill Evans' introspective "Re: Person I Knew" unaccompanied, putting his own mark on this moody composition. Woods includes several of his best works, including remakes of two warm tributes: "Quill," in memory of fellow alto saxophonist Gene Quill, with whom he made many great records, and the also potent "Goodbye Mr. Evans, honoring the legendary Bill Evans. Woods switches to clarinet for his lovely ballad "Petite Chanson." Beck's originals are every bit as strong though not as widely known; "For Keith" seems to constantly evolve into something new, while "Core of the Apple" is the essence of hard bop. There's never a disappointing moment during this concert, which is preserved in its entirety on this outstanding two-CD set. Highly recommended!
 
Alto Summit
by Ken Dryden
This is a sizzling meeting of three fine alto saxophonists in a session co-produced by Vincent Herring and Carl Allen. Phil Woods is the acknowledged dean of the alto, and his smooth chops contrast with Herring's grittier tone on bop classics like "Blue Minor" and "Minority." The veteran creates a sensational mood on "Stars Fell on Alabama," while Herring matches him with a lovely take of "Autumn in New York." The talented youngster Antonio Hart delivers a compelling solo in his feature, "God Bless the Child." All three saxophonists solo with gusto on Woods' "Song for Sass." The rhythm section includes Carl Allen on drums, Anthony Wonsey on piano, and Reuben Rogers on bass.
 
Our Monk
by Ken Dryden
This lively duo date with pianist Franco D'Andrea is a very enjoyable all-Monk affair. Woods was a part of several larger groups led by Thelonious Monk, and his effortless swing makes it clear why he was chosen. Another choice track is "I Mean You," highlighted by Woods' singing tone. D'Andrea isn't nearly as well known, but he justifies his presence with a clever tapestry of chords around Woods on "Well, You Needn't." Recommended.
 
Ornitology
by Ken Dryden
There's little doubt that no alto saxophonist alive is more qualified to do a tribute to Charlie Parker than Phil Woods; he has mastered the bop repertoire of Bird in a career that is approaching the half-century mark, and he has developed a sound that is very distinctly his own and can be readily identified in seconds. Woods has made numerous recordings for this Italian label, which he jokingly referred to as his "retirement plan" during a 1990 interview, but this quartet date is among his best for Philology. With an Italian rhythm section led by the fine pianist Franco D'Andrea, Woods explores at length eight of Parker's favorites. An extended "How High the Moon," a rhapsodic "Lover Man," and the Latin flavored "Night and Day" are among the date's many highlights. Highly recommended!
 
Phil Woods Live
by Ken Dryden
For a brief time, Phil Woods led a formidable group that included guitarist Harry Leahey, pianist Mike Melillo, bassist Steve Gilmore, drummer Bill Goodwin, and percussionist Alyrio Lima, though this particular band was never documented extensively. The nine tracks on this Novus CD were condensed from the Grammy-winning two-record set Live from the Showboat, but four other tracks are unjustly omitted from this reissue. But the music is pure magic. Woods is in terrific form on alto sax, but he has a few surprises in store. Woods and Leahey open "A Sleepin' Bee" with a lush duet, though the setting switches to brisk bop with the entry of the rhythm section. Leahey's "Rain Dance" is a tense samba that showcases Woods in a rare appearance on soprano sax, an instrument he plays with finesse. Leahey also arranged Django Reinhardt's "Django's Castle" as a soft bossa nova; while his playing is more conservative than its composer is, it is masterful in its own way. The extended workout of Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek" is very aggressive and risk-taking, with no slips. Woods is back on soprano sax for the equally wild roller coaster ride through "I'm Late," as well as a rapid-fire take of Ettore Stratta's bossa nova "High Clouds." The band concludes with a full version of "How's Your Mama," Woods' well-known signoff theme. Sadly, this terrific music has been badly mistreated by RCA and its subsidiary. The original two-record set was deleted not long after it won a Grammy, and this 1990 condensed CD reissue was barely in print over a year.
 
Phil's Mood
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods has made many fine recordings for Philology, the Italian label named in his honor, and this one is no exception. He's backed by the Space Jazz Trio, anchored by the fine pianist Enrico Pieranunzi (who wrote nine of the 11 compositions heard here) and also featuring bassist Enzo Pietropaoli (who contributed the two takes of "Upstairs") and drummer Alfred Kramer. Woods' potent alto brings out the best in the pianist's strong post-bop charts, especially the driving "New Lands," the lyrical ballad "Chet," and the bittersweet waltz "Hindsight," which features Woods' hypnotic clarinet. Pieranunzi is also a compelling soloist. Woods' fans will definitely want to search for this gem.
 
Phil on Etna
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods has recorded frequently for Philology (named in his honor by its owner, Paolo Piangiarelli) during his many trips to Italy; this two-CD set documents a 1989 concert with the Catania City Brass Orkestra, a group of promising young Italian musicians. Woods carries the lion's share of the solos, and while the rhythm section is competent, the reeds and brass have problems consistently staying in tune on several of the songs. In addition to the expected Woods compositions ("Reet's Neet," "Goodbye Mr. Evans," and "How's Your Mama"), the program includes Neal Hefti's "Repetition," Woods' very familiar arrangement of "Willow Weep for Me" (which is built upon a vamp of Miles Davis' "All Blues"), and two features for singer Antonella Consolo, including "Lover Man" and "Lullaby of Birdland," both of which were arranged by pianist and bandleader Giuseppe Emmanuele, who also contributed two fine originals. While it is unfair to compare the Catania City Brass Orkestra to more established big bands, they make up in energy what they lack occasionally in polish. Fans of Phil Woods will want to pick up this release, in any case.
 
Embraceable You
by Ken Dryden
Phil Woods has recorded with many different musicians for the Philology label, but this meeting with the Big Bang Orchestra, led by Mario Raja, had to overcome the lack of suitable studios to come to fruition, finally ending up in an empty disco that was closed to the public. The results were worth the extra effort. Woods is the guest soloist with the band, featuring Raja's potent arrangements. In addition to standards like "Embraceable You" and "Just One of Those Things" plus standard jazz fare ("Nardis" and "Crepuscule with Nellie,") all of which are very familiar to Woods, there are several originals by Raja. While none of them is likely to become a standard, they still provoke stimulating performances. The closing "Big Bang Blues" showcases several of the orchestra's top soloists (especially trumpeter Paolo Fresu) as well as Woods and trombonist Hal Crook, the latter subbing for a musician who failed to return to the second session of the day. This CD is definitely worth picking up.
 
Ageless Woods Feels a Bit Quincy
by WILL FRIEDWALD July 16, 2007
Phil Woods likes to tell a story about his fellow alto saxophone virtuoso and longtime musical partner, the late Gene Quill. One night, Quill played what Mr. Woods described as a "blazing solo" to wild reception from the audience — with the exception of one finger-waving self-appointed critic, who walked up to Quill and declared, "All you're doing is imitating Charlie Parker." Quill removed his saxophone from its strap, handed it to the guy, and said, "Here, you imitate Charlie Parker." ...read more
 
American Songbook

Phil Woods - Unheard HerdThe new Swiss record label Kind of Blue has come out swinging with several fine recordings in recent months, and this set of standards recorded by alto sax great Phil Woods and his longstanding quintet is clearly a winner. Surprisingly, pairing Woods and his band with a set of classic tunes from the Great American Songbook hasn't been done before in the recording studio.

As Net Hentoff points out in his liner notes, Woods hasn't really focused on performing standards over the course of his lengthy career. Woods himself states, "Many of my other albums have focused on obsure pieces by Duke Ellington and Oliver Nelson, my originals and blowing sessions."

But standards are in plentiful supply on this session, and Woods attacks them with energy and verve - ably supported by Brian Lynch on trumpet, pianist Bill Charlap, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin. There's plenty of solo space for all concerned, and Lynch's fine horn solos are especially strong. Woods' distinctive alto swings strongly on "Foggy Day" and "Let's Fall in Love," waxes lyrical on "Every Time We Say Goodbye" and he adds a lovely clarinet solo on "Summertime." It may have taken quite a while for Woods to record a set of standards, but it was definately worth the wait.

 Terry Perkins - JazzTimes - July/August 2006

 
American Songbook

Phil Woods - Unheard Herd

Who needs another jazz standards album? Well, it depends who's playing it and why. Like Lee Konitz, Peter King, the late Jackie McLean, Art Pepper and a handful of other alto-saxists, Phil Woods is a Charlie Parker disciple who did something special with a legacy many deemed untouchable.

The repertoire here is exactly what it says on the tin (there are 10 classic Broadway songs), but the band is a very classy one, including the highly polished duo of trumpeter Brian Lynch and pianist Bill Charlap. Woods, though in his mid-70s and hampered by emphysema, sounds in his jubilant prime. His leisurely insinuations, aching long notes and skimming runs, with their sometimes unexpectedly free-jazzy audacity of line, are wonderful on All the Things You Are.

The languorous horn-ensemble sound on the bluesy When the Sun Comes Out is a testament to the arranging skills at work. And the piano/trumpet/clarinet arrangement of Summertime, with its fragile Woods clarinet break, is absolutely exquisite. It's all recorded with an expert care appropriate to the musicianship

John Fordham (May 2006)        

 
Unheard Herd

Phil Woods - Unheard Herd

In his long and illustrious career, the late Woody Herman led many big bands, including several known as his Thundering Herds. The Unheard Herd recaptures the music of Herman's Second Herd, aka The Four Brothers Band. Some of the music on this set, a selection of his charts from the late forties, was never recorded by the Herman band. The owner and producer of Jazzed Media, Graham Carter, championed the idea for this project and called upon alto great Phil Woods to help him bring the music of the “seldom herd” back from obscurity. Woods has been a fan of the bandleader's music since he was sixteen, and Carter is a fan of both artists, so it was only natural to have the celebrated saxophonist lead this recording.   ...read more

All About Jazz Edward Blanco (March 2006)        

 
Unheard Herd

Phil Woods - Unheard Herd

As a reviewer, I am privileged to receive and hear a veritable boatload of albums from big bands all over the world, but Unheard Herd has done something none of those others could — it has actually made me feel young again. Listening to alto saxophonist Phil Woods and the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra masterfully redesign such classics as “Keen and Peachy,” “Yardbird Suite,” “More Moon” and others, I was taken back, as if on a magic carpet of sound, to an incomparable era when big bands ruled the land and Woody Herman’s thundering Herds commanded a place of honor among the kings of the hill.   ...read more

All About Jazz Jack Bowers (March 2006)        

 
Unheard Herd
Phil Woods - Unheard Herd

O's Notes: Phil is a living legend on jazz alto sax. He connects with The Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra for this live session in May 2004. They play some of the lesser known as well as popular jazz hits. It’s mostly big band but they relax into a smaller ensemble for a couple of tunes. There is also some excellent spoken comments by Phil and director Ron Stout. While Woods is the main feature, there is also excellent work from Ross Tompkins (p), and Carl Saunders (t) who also scats up a storm on “We The People Bop”.

-- D. Oscar  Groomes   O's Place Jazz Newsletter


 
Unheard Herd

Phil Woods - Unheard Herd

The Four Brothers Band period of Woody Herman was an especially memorable one in Herman’s career. Alto sax master Phil Woods and Jazzed Media owner and producer Graham Carter were in agreement about their affection for the music of this band. They convinced Ken Poston to schedule a concert, featuring charts from the Herman book of this vintage, as part of his 2004 “Springsville” event, and the results are documented on "Unheard Herd " (Jazzed Media – 013).
For this concert, Woods was the prime soloist with the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra, an all-star group directed by trumpeter Ron Stout, a Herman alumnus. In the interest of space, I shall not list the players on the band. Suffice to say that they represent the cream of the L.A. jazz scene. The program concentrates on arrangements that were not among the most noted of the period, but which were superb examples of the arranging talents of Neal Hefti, Ralph Burns, and, especially, Shorty Rogers.
This recording is a roaring delight from the opener, “Keen and Peachy” through the closing flag waver “Boomsie.” Woods is spectacular throughout, as are the other soloists. Big band jazz lovers will rejoice upon hearing this recording.
 
Joseph Lang - "Jersey Jazz" - April 2006
 
Unheard Herd

Phil Woods - Unheard Herd

This is yet another delightful CD by Phil Woods. As of late, Phil has been on an ambitious move equal to that of someone half his age.  It's revealing that he's not lost his edge. His tone, technique and improvisation are still on the cutting edge. The CD finds Phil playing with a stellar all-star group from Los Angeles. ...read more
 
JazzZine Magazine - March 9, 2006
 
Bouncing with Bud & Phil
Bouncing with Bud and Phil While the two tenor frontline is a regular feature in jazz, it's rarer to find a brace of altos in the same position. And it's rarer still to find two acknowledged masters of the horn sharing a stage.  ...read more
 
Peter Marsh - BBC 
 
 
Bouncing with Bud & Phil
Bouncing with Bud and Phil When Bud Shank and Phil Woods worked together for the first time in duo performances on Joe Segal’s Jazz Cruise, it was one of those why-haven’t-we-done-this-before? moments. And so they did it again. In jazz festivals in Toronto, the Netherlands and at the Port Townsend, Washington festival where Shank usually plays every year. And then these legendary musicians, with two of the most recognizable sounds in jazz and each with more than a half century of experiences, decided to perform in some clubs too, giving the public the opportunity to hear that infrequent event: two alto saxophonists trading ideas and absorbing the moment, rather than the more often heard pair of tenor saxophonists.  ...read more

Don Williamson - JazzReview.com 
 
Bouncing With Bud & Phil
Bouncing with Bud and Phil
In his liner notes to Bouncing With Bud & Phil, Doug Ramsey makes an interesting point that both of these living legend altoists are the musical offspring of Charlie Parker, even though their home bases are located in California/the Pacific Northwest and the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania, respectively.  ...read more
 
All About Jazz  (August 2005)  
 
Phil Woods: Life in E Flat
Life in E Flat

Intertwined with a one-hour documentary about the life of Phil Woods in his own words comes a musical collage of shorts from the making of his recent album, This is How I Feel About Quincy. We learn about the staunch character that has driven this artist from his 12-year-old start... read more

All About Jazz  (September 2005)

 
Groovin' to Marty Paich
Groovin' to Marty Paich Phil Woods & the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra More than 45 years ago, arranger Marty Paich and alto saxophone legend Art Pepper recorded the benchmark album Art Pepper + Eleven, on which Pepper and a “mini-big band” performed Paich's superlative charts. Fast forward to May 2004, when Ken Poston and the Los Angeles Jazz Institute presented “Springsville,” a four-day festival celebrating “the Birth of the Cool and beyond.”  ...read more
 
All About Jazz  (March 2005) 
 
Groovin' to Marty Paich
Groovin' to Marty Paich Phil Woods & the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra What a difference 45 years makes. But 45 years don't change a thing. If this sounds like an obvious conflict, you should listen to Phil Woods and the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra play twelve classic arrangements by Marty Paich. Paich is one of the unsung heroes of music as a pianist, composer, and arranger. Phil Woods is one of the top alto sax players in the history of the horn. The combination deserves a listen. ...read more
 
All About Jazz  (February 2005) 
 
This is How I Feel About Quincy
All About Jazz.com Phil Woods and Quincy Jones have shared a personal friendship and musical camaraderie for almost half a century, and Woods' newest album, This Is How I Feel About Quincy, is neither a spurious nor spur-of-the-moment homage but one whose sincerity is as clear as its meticulous planning and execution. ...read more
 
All About Jazz  (December 2004)
 
This Is How I Feel About Quincy
This is How I Feel About Quincy As this marvelous record so eloquently bears out, Phil Woods today is at the very top of his form—and that, my friends, is a claim based on nearly fifty years (help!) of listening to this extraordinary artist, live and on record. Here Phil pays homage to another dear friend, happily very much alive, and Phil’s junior by about 16 months, the one and only Quincy Jones. The title is derived from a l956 LP—Quincy’s first as a leader—called “This Is How I Feel About Jazz”. This is not the place for even a brief resume of Q.’s amazing career; suffice it to say that by then he had already developed an original voice as an arranger and composer and paid his dues as a member of Lionel Hampton’s trumpet section, sitting next to Clifford Brown and Art Farmer. (Digression: It is a tribute to Phil as a person as well as a musician that he has been able to maintain his own regularly constituted group for lo, these many years; Steve Gilmore and Bill Goodwin were on board when the quartet started in 1974; it became a quintet nine years later. Pianists and horns have also shown staying power; Brian’s been on board since 1992, and Bill Charlap joined in ‘95; he’s on his own now as one of the best and brightest, and he and Brian just recently joined forces on a fine CD.) Quincy is bound to love it. As will you, dear listener, and not just for a spin. This is the real thing.
Dan Morgenstern- Director, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University 
 
Play Henry Mancini
Play Henry Mancini Phil Woods and Carl Saunders Yes, it's “The Pink Panther,” “Mr. Lucky” and “Two for the Road,” but if anyone can take the late film/television composer Henry Mancini's quasi-jazz and make it swing like a willow in a windstorm, it's two old (well, oldish ) masters like alto saxophonist Phil Woods and trumpeter Carl Saunders. And swing they do. ...read more
 
All About Jazz  (April 2004) 
 
Beyond Brooklyn
Beyond Brooklyn Beyond Brooklyn
Herbie Mann and Phil Woods
The remarkable musical affiliations between flutist Herbie Mann and saxophonist Phil Woods began all the way back in 1951, when they played together for the first time in Tony's Bar on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Thus, Mann and Woods account for over 100 years of combined performing experience. Their new disc amply demonstrates their musical insight, skill, and affinity for a wide variety of jazzes .. read more
 
Out.com 
 
Beyond Brooklyn
Beyond Brooklyn
 
In 1951, Herbie Mann and Phil Woods played together for the first time, at a Brooklyn club called Tony's Bar. Surprisingly, given the similar trajectories of their careers, this recording marks the first time the jazz legends have played together since the post-war period... read more
 
  Tim O'Neil - (October 2004)
 
Beyond Brooklyn
Beyond Brooklyn A poignant send-off for Herbie Mann, Beyond Brooklyn reminds us that the flautist wore many hats, and could really play it all. This enjoyable release showcases him with alto saxophonist Phil Woods.

Despite the album's tendency to wander all over the stylistic map, it all somehow fits. This is because Mann and Woods not only shared similar registers, sonically, but temperamentally. A tune like Randy Weston's "Little Niles," which starts as a free-ranging, arhythmic mood piece, eventually settles into a medium-tempo jazz waltz groove with both players true to form, swinging tree and easy without pushing or pulling. The song selections are smart ones, with no major statements needed: These are two pros playing what they love to play.

The highlights are the ballads and Latin numbers—Duke Ellington's "Azure," Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count" (sans Mann, with Woods on clarinet), Bill Evans' "We Will Meet Again" and Jobim's "Caminhos Cruzados" (minus Woods). The latter two are played like a breezy walk on the beach, the beautiful melodies coaxed along by guitarist Marty Ashby's fine accompaniment. There's a large-ensemble feel on the forward-swinging "Alvin G." And it's a great reminder to hear Mann swing some hop with Woods on Oscar Pettiford's "Bohemia After Dark" and Charlie Parker's "Au Privave." "Time After Time" was Mann's final recorded piece before he passed away a few weeks later. Hearing it in this trio setting, it's evident that Mann had the goods right up to the end.

Down Beat —John Ephland

 
At The Bouquet Chorale
At the Bouquet Chorale
Hardcore alto sax fanatics can finally rejoice—their day has come! At The Bouquet Chorale features not just altoist Marty Nau but two of his comrades in the alto brotherhood, Vince Lardear and the great Phil Woods.
...read more
 
All About Jazz  (August 2005)  
 
Meet Phil Woods
There is no need to introduce Phil Woods to a jazz audience, but it should be mentioned that he is now as active as ever, turning out quality CD's and videos, playing concerts with his popping quintet, posting outrageous and hilarious notes on his website, and generally refusing to fade away. ...read more 
 
All About Jazz  (April 2005)
 
Phil Woods: The Irrepressible Spirit of Jazz
Whenever I hear Phil Woods, he reminds me of Roy Eldridge. It's the passion of his storytelling and, like Roy, he never coasts. Eldridge, in rehearsals or on a gig, played as if it was the last chorus he'd ever take. So too with Phil Woods. ...read more
 
  Nat Hentoff - Jazz Times
 
Concert Review - The Phil Woods Quartet @ The Kaye Playhouse
Tonight’s jazz was a diet served up high in carbs; rich with the American songbook standards, easy on the ears and a swing that was as elastic as granddaddy’s pants. In JVC’s 19th year sponsoring jazz in the Big Apple, a Jazz Party for Phil Woods celebrated this jazz giant in an evening filled with many little highlights and surprises. The Kaye Playhouse Auditorium which was filled to capacity would shortly be soaked in music, energy and fun. ...read more
 
Phillip Wong (June 2004) 
 
Concert Review: Phil Woods Live at Jazz Club Unterfahrt
By William Grim There's no greater jazz saxophonist in the world than Phil Woods, and his stunning performance at the Jazz Club Unterfahrt in Munich on Saturday, January 25th proved that at age 71 he's still playing at the top of his game.  ...read more
 
(February 2003)
 

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