It seems to me I first heard of Phil Woods while in college. Now he’s gone, and Larry read me portions of his obituary over breakfast yesterday. According to Larry, who has seen him in person, he was a great story teller.
A story Larry told me was that Phil was playing his first paid gig at a burlesque show and at the break he felt there was something wrong with his saxophone, he wasn’t getting the sound he wanted–the mouthpiece wasn’t right, or the reed was too hard, or the action of keys wasn’t quite right.He was working on it when someone ran in and said Charlie Parker (Phil’s hero) was playing at a bar across the street. Phil ran over and saw that Parker was playing a baritone sax–the only horn available in the bar. He shyly went up to him and said he had an alto sax across the street if Parker wanted it. Parker accepted, and Phil ran across the street and grabbed his horn.
Parker took it and blew a stunning solo. It was perfect–the tone was gorgeous, the sound rich and mellow.
“I guess there really isn’t anything wrong with my horn,” Phil commented.
The photo here is one of the few remaining jazz autographs from Larry’s collection.