Remebering Phil Woods
To be able to say at the age of 19 I would meet Phil Woods and go on to perform with him while touring with Michel Legrand is really something I couldn’t have imagined. I remember first meeting Phil the same night I met Legrand when he was performing with him at the famous Mister Kelly's Chicago . It seem's that Mister Kelly's was a good luck charm and a major part of connecting me to some of the most important musical moments in my life like first meeting Legrand and then Phil Woods there.
Performing that night at MK's with Michel on piano were Phil Woods on alto sax, trumpet/flugelhornist Marvin Stamm, bassist Steve Gilmore, drummer Bill Goodwin and a string quartet from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra..What an outstanding band!!!
At the time Phil was on his way to becoming one of the most iconic alto saxophonists in the world. I couldn't believe I was on the road touring and performing with Michel and Phil!! Phil was a part of so many of the concerts we performed including at New York's Carnegie Hall, Westbury Theatre, Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheater to name a few. I remember Phil's presence being very powerful and then to hear that sound, passion, edge and tone when he played, it was like nothing I've ever heard before or since.
I remember there was one particular song of Legrand's that had a special meaning for me that I always sang on tour, "You Must Believe In Spring". I had come to find out that song had the same meaning for both Phil and I. It was one of the most important Legrand songs that literally changed both our lives.
In an interview with writer Marc Myers Marc JazzWax Myers of Jazz Wax, Phil was asked, is there one song that you love more than any other? Phil's answer, "You Must Believe In Spring" as that song was one of the highlights of the live recording he played on with Legrand and that Legrand was responsible for saving his career. What blew me away about that song was that when I met Michel and talked him into letting me sing for him I sang two of his songs, "Pieces Of Dreams" and the second song I picked to sing was "You Must Believe In Spring" and that was the song that sealed the deal and changed my life as I then went on to become his vocal soloist for the next five and a half years.
Wild to have such an important connection with Phil Woods involving this same song. Phil never new, cause I didn't know until he passed and until I read Marc's interview, which btw is really wonderful. I've never mentioned this, so this is a first for me and it still blows my mind.
Not just a jazz man, Phil also played on Steely Dan and Paul Simon recordings and is well known for his famous alto sax solo on Billy Joel's Grammy winning "Just The Way You Are”.
It was in 2007 after many years that I saw Phil, he had come to Chicago to play with the Mulligan Mosaics for a benefit for reopening the Jazz Showcase.at Joes Be-Bop Café at Navy Pier in Chicago. Wow, it was so fantastic to see and hear him play again! From then on we kept in touch and I went to hear him play each time he came back to Chicago. One of the best and most unforgettable moments for me was Phil's reaction in an e-mail after listening to my "Pieces Of Dreams" EP.."Girl! You are singing your ass off! Loved the CD!" and then he sent me 28 of his original compositions, I think I'll have to do an evening of songs by Phil Woods someday!
We lost Phil all too soon on September 29th, 2015 and there is something really missing without him in the world.
For me, Phil was one of the most outstanding and brilliant musicians on this earth who had a message for musicians, to learn all you can about music and life and not waste a moment of it and to do what you love the best you can! It was truly more than an honor working with Phil. I miss my friend, his e-mails and going to hear him play and hanging out with him and listening to his Charlie Parker stories he was so good at telling them with that wit of his..and I miss seeing him wearing his famous leather cap he was known for that he always wore from the first time I met him. God bless you Philip of the Woods,.. forever..