Each year, in our March issue, we ask prominent musicians to pay tribute to fellow artists who have passed in the previous year. This piece appeared in the March 2016 edition of JazzTimes.
I have never played with a greater musician than Phil Woods. Phil personified what it means to be a complete musician, and exemplified the way that jazz musicians can fully inhabit that ideal. All aspects of his musicality were developed to the extent that each individual talent could have stood alone as the basis of a distinguished career. He was a composer and arranger, not just as a means to frame his own playing but as a maker of works-fully realized and extended ones, in settings ranging from small ensemble to big band to chamber and choral music.
His acuity as an instrumentalist was astonishing. The virtuosity, beauty and consistency of this grandmaster never failed to awe and thrill me, all the way to the very end. And as an improviser, jazz soloist and expressive artist he was beyond category. Phil nailed the number-one goal of musical artistry-to have an individual voice, recognizable in one gorgeous and expressive note. Phil was it! He had everything that makes the jazz master the highest form of musical achievement.