EAST STROUDSBURG, PA (CelebrityAccess) — Phil Woods, a jazz alto saxophonist, celebrated in the jazz world for his clean performance style and known for his work with artists such as Billy Joel and Steely Dan, died on Tuesday in East Stroudsburg, Pa. He was 83.
Joel Chriss, Woods' longtime booking agent told the New York Times that the cause of Woods' death was complications of emphysema.
Woods was one of the best regarded alto-sax players who followed in the footsteps of Charlie Parker and helped to define the sound of bebop. He was known by the moniker New Bird, a reference to Charlie Parker's nickname.
A native of Springfield, Mass., Woods attended the Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard School where he learned to play the clarinet, as the school did not offer a saxaphone major at the time.
Woods' early career featured stints with Dizzie Gillespie, and Clark Terry, helping the Clark establish his Big Bad Band, and he earned a reputation as both a proficient bandleader and an adroit sideman.
In 1968, Woods moved to Paris and where he quickly found success, touring with the European Rhythm Machine a group that led him to experiment with avant garde jazz, but returned to the U.S. in 1973.
After returning to the U.S., Woods formed the Phil Woods Quartet with Steve Gilmore, Bill Goodman and Mike Melillo with which he continued to perform for the next three decades.
Outside of the world of jazz, some of Woods' best known performances were on pop albums. Woods played the alto sax solo on Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are," Steely Dan's hit "Doctor Wu" and on Paul Simon's hit "Have A Good Time" from the 1975 album "Still Crazy After All These Years."
Woods was awarded a Jazz Masters award from the National Endowment of the Arts in 2007 and was nominated for 7 Grammy Awards over the course of his career, winning 4, including Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance and Best Instrumental Jazz Performance.
Woods' final concert was a show earlier this month in Pittsburgh, backed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
According to the New York Times, Woods is survived by his wife, Jill Goodwin; a son, Garth; three stepdaughters, Kim Parker and Allisen and Tracy Trotter; and a grandson. – Staff Writers