© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
The current issue of The Note is devoted to a series of articles, testimonials and interviews that serve as a memorial to the late, great alto saxophonist Phil Woods [1931-2015].
We thought we’d include a few excerpts from fellow saxophonist Dave Liebman’s tribute to Phil from this issue as a way of remembering Phil once again on these pages.
Incidentally both Phil and Dave frequently contributed pieces to The Note, about which you’ll find more information following Dave’s homage.
Phil passed like he lived. Completely on his own terms. In the hospital on the verge of pulling the plug so to say, we spoke about Cleanhead Vinson, Johnny Hodges, etc., with his usual special brand of jazz humor right 'til the end, lucid and clear as a bell. He explained in short his decision to pass on and all I could say to him was "I love you bro. You did your job!"
I can tell you a few things about Phil:
• When you played next to him you couldn't hear yourself... his sound was so big. That's what comes with years of playing and insisting on an acoustic setting when possible.
• His solo on Billy Joel's hit tune is probably the most famous "jazz" tinged solo in pop-music history, proving that bebop can prevail anywhere, anytime.
• When you say, "lead alto" in a big band setting, there is only one; he set the mold with his sound and phrasing.
• He, along with Cannonball and a few others, took Bird to a logical extension, paving the way for Trane to go further. He even married Bird's old lady!
• His sense of humor and prose writing abilities were special, always with great insight and a healthy dose of sarcasm pertaining to the state of the world and life in general, peppered with keen insights into the people he dealt with. Basically, Phil couldn't and wouldn't abide by any bullshit... calling it like it was.
• Along with a few other local heroes, Phil made our community a jazz stop, started an ongoing jazz festival, a summer camp, and involvement with local high schools.
• Phil was the epitome of a jazz warrior; ON THE ROAD all over the planet bringing beauty and truth everywhere he could.
• The maestro could play clarinet, good piano, and write for any combination.
• His summer workshop (Ramblerny) in the early '60s near New Hope, Pa., was a forerunner of what I, for one, do every summer.
Here's a great quote from Phil that lays it right out there when I interviewed him for a magazine about jazz education: "It's better for a kid to have a saxophone in his hands than a gun!"
PHIL DID HIS JOB ...he brought light, sanity and wisdom to us all R.I.P.!”
The NOTE is published twice a year by the Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, as part of its educational outreach program. The Editor is Matt Vashlishan, D.M.A.
The mission of the Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection is to stimulate, enrich, and support research, teaching, learning, and appreciation of all forms of jazz.
The ACMJC is a distinctive archive built upon a unique and symbiotic relationship between the Pocono Mountains jazz community and East Stroudsburg University.
With the support of a world-wide network of jazz advocates, the ACMJC seeks to promote the local and global history of jazz by making its resources available and useful to students, researchers, educators, musicians, historians, journalists and jazz enthusiasts of all kinds, and to preserve its holdings for future generations.
Contact information is as follows:
Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection
Kemp Library East Stroudsburg University
200 Prospect St.
East Stroudsburg, PA 18301-2999 firstname.lastname@example.org
East Stroudsburg University President
Marcia G. Welsh, Ph.D.