Here’s another Phil Woods solo that I’ve been sitting on for a while. This is another great example of Phil’s ability to really shape his improvisations to match a tune. While all players will always have their own personality when improvising, I’ve always thought that Phil has a remarkable ability to capture what the composer was getting at and reflect it in his solos. You could spend a lifetime trying to replicate that, so just call it another reason to go back to the shed!
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted much of anything. This is the way all blogs go right? (And the way I begin pretty much all my posts)
Anyway, Phil Woods has passed away this week and left behind an enormous legacy in the world of saxophone playing. Many people don’t realize just how significant of a player he was. There are very few living people who have the kind of experience he does; the list of people he played with is literally a who’s who of music over the last 75 years Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Benny Goodman, Quincy Jones, Michel Legrand, Lennie Tristano, and Billy Joel just to name a few.
Even though I’d never met him, after listening to him for so long I feel as though I know his personality through the horn. This is much of the reason why I like his playing so much- it was wild, wacky, beautiful, hilarious, and thoughtful all at the same time. He used this to great effect, applying it with finesse in trios/quartets and even among a full Romantic-styled orchestra.
The transcription I’m posting today is from what many would call his tour-de-force… the Live at the Showboat albums. It should go without saying that Phil is a great soloist, but the fact that these discs were taped live completely blows my mind. I still can’t wrap my head around how one guy can sound so great and unique on EVERY SINGLE TRACK across 2 discs totaling almost 2 hours of music. It’s inhuman! This post is his solo from the tune “High Clouds.” I love the energy in this one and Phil’s solo is relentless; blazing across the difficult changes (concert D anyone?) with a ferocity that very few other players could match. There are a few odd/wrong notes in this one- by the time I finished it my brain was oozing out through my ears , but it’s a lot of fun to play along to! Grab your sax and try to keep up, this one’s a trip.
One of the greatest things about playing music is when you find someone new to listen to. It’s a bit like finding a new good book to read; the first song being that introductory paragraph where there’s so much that the author wants to say but only has a few measly sentences to do it…
For me, finding a new sax player takes a while, there’s a lot more to it than just drawing names out of a hat (Awww man, Kenny G again?!), I have to be LED to someone’s music. I think that musicians are a lot like Facebook in the sense that the “6 degrees of separation” concept holds true for both. In the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty probable that _____ has played with _____ who has also played with _____ once in their lifetime. Learning about these connections is what makes it so interesting for me. For example, when I found out that one of Phil Woods main influences was Johnny Hodges, it was an “AHA!!” moment for me. Suddenly, the huge glissandos and the wonky vibrato made so much more sense! Later on, I noticed that Phil Woods had an association with the French composer Michel Legrand, which was the first spark of another inferno of music I started listening to… Anyway, over the last couple of months I’ve noticed a close association between some great tenor saxophonists. This includes Michael Brecker, Bob Mintzer, Bob Malach, and my newest, Bob Berg. It’s interesting to compare these four because they all have similar styles and sounds except for a few characteristics. I won’t get into what I think (key word) those are, but I’ve been stuck on this recording of Bob Berg for a few days now and I couldn’t move on until I wrote it down. It’s not like I can move on now but hey, I tried OK?
My obsession continues…
I fell for this tune after I had to play it in our university jazz band a few years ago (Thank god I still don’t play it the way I did back then). It’s part of a suite Duke Ellington wrote called “Such Sweet Thunder,” with this tune being the signature let’s-feature-Johnny-Hodges-ballad of the bunch. All the tunes were based on a work by William Shakespeare- “The Star-Crossed Lovers” is obviously from Romeo and Juliet.
Personally, I think this is one of the best ballads out there in the entire jazz genre. I also sort of think that it’s kind of an “acid test” for lead alto players- it may look easy, but try playing along with Johnny Hodges on the original recording if you’re up for a challenge.
Anyway, Eric Alexander does some really gorgeous stuff with this tune, enjoy!
Ever since I picked up this album, I’ve been really wanting to write out some of Phil’s solos. Out of all his stuff (and most everyone else’s), I think this whole album represents some of the finest playing in the history of jazz. Not to mention it’s a LIVE ALBUM. No re-takes or anything. I would kill to have been there in person. Anyway, enjoy!
I had a crazy day the other day and decided to chill out by listening to some jazz. Through all this, I forgot how much I love Phil Woods’ playing. I won’t get into my personal opinions too much, but I think that if you’re a serious alto player and you don’t listen to Phil Woods, then you’re REALLY missing out. The album it’s from is called American Songbook (Disc 2). It’s an interesting album to say the least; not my favorite, but there’s a lot of music packed in each of these “standards”. Anyway, PDF attachment is below and be sure to check out the video version as well!