Phil Woods, Jazz Saxophonist Who Played with Dizzy, Michel Legrand, Billy Joel

Phil Woods Live in Paris, 1969

You don’t have to know jazz to recognize Phil Woods, who played on popular tracks by Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Billy Joel and other familiar artists. A Juilliard-trained saxophonist, Woods (November 2, 1931-September 29, 2015) was a favorite of jazz artists, too, and he played with Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and composer-arranger Michel Legrand. His jazz chops were such that he was sometimes called “the new Bird” after Charlie Parker.

At Yamaha New York with Capitol Quartet

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Woods went to Europe, where jazz still could draw a respectable crowd. He formed the European Rhythm Machine. Upon his return to the US, he was featured in solos for tunes by Paul Simon (“Have a Good Time”), Steely Dan (“Dr. Wu”) and Billy Joel (“Just the Way You Are”). The Joel track made it to the Top 10 and won a Grammy.

With Michel Legrand in Montreal, 2001

Woods was recognized with a Grammy for “Images,” an album he made with Legrand. A winner of four Grammy Awards in all, Woods was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and received a Living Jazz Legend Award from the Kennedy Center.