Interview: Phil Woods (Part 1) - JazzWax

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February 17, 2009


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Michael Steinman

The best and most fortunate writers become shaped and inspired by their subjects -- Phil's intensity comes through this piece: the first paragraph is like a Woods melodic statement. Great stuff, Marc! Readers who want to find more of Woods on the page will enjoy his column, "Phil in the Gap," written for THE NOTE, published by Bob Bush (curator of the Al Cohn Memorial Collection at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania): Phil's prose is like Phil: salty, fierce, revealing.

Denis Ouellet

How wonderful Marc. Another great read.
I absolutely love this.
Thank you Phil for sharing all these stories.
Oh boy do I love the American Songbook.

Denis Ouellet

Bill Forbes

Phil Woods can be heard on excellent form as a raconteur, recalling his youth on Unheard Herd (Jazz Media), a 2004 session playing lesser-known Herman charts with the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra. Phil recalls that at the age of about 14 he he went to hear the Herman band in a friend's borrowed zoot suit: "The peg was so small, I had to butter my feet to put my pants on." He collected the autographs of the trumpet section, only to find that Neal Hefti, Sonny Berman and Pete Candoli had signed as Bunk Johnson, Henry Red Allen and Muggsy Spanier!

Terry Moran

To Marc Meyers - Your snotty comments about Billy Joel's "sudsy" song, 'Just The Way You Are' and Phil Woods' solo are uninformed and based on that old "ain't us jazz cats better than those stupid-ass rock musicians" syndrome. 1. F.Y.I. The solo on that recording is not a one-take solo or a played-through solo. It is a combination of SIX different solos that Phil Ramone spliced together into what is on the finished recording. It took an entire day for Ramone to edit those solos together. 2. Billy Joel did not want to scrap the recording because he was concerned that Phil Woods might have "stolen the song out from under him". That is a load of crap. Joel loved everything Woods played and was thrilled to have him play on one of his songs altogether. Joel is a real musician and an integral part of a rhythm section. He appreciates both ensemble and solo artistry. 3. If you were a good journalist, you should have gotten off your lazy ass and talked to Phil Ramone about how that solo actually happened, because Phil Woods became very well-known from that recording. Your disparaging assumptions are a cheap shot and display a remarkable ignorance of not only Billy Joel, but Phil Woods as well.


Moran (name spelled right?): you could easily post less vitriol and more pertinent disagreement backed up by actual evidence supporting the insider knowledge you claim. as it is, are you defending Joel or praising hardworking Phil Ramone, or just angry that Myers may have not gotten all the "facts" right? interviews are notoriously one-sided, you know, and Phil Woods obviously opinionated. i'll bet Marc would be pleased to talk to Ramone for some rebuttal if you have the number to pass along.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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