Phil began saxophone lessons at age 12 with Harvey LaRose in Springfield. After graduation from high school at age 16, he went to New York City and spent one summer at the Manhattan School of Music and four years at the Juilliard Conservatory. "My first influences were Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges and Charlie Parker, in that order."
In the 50's and 60's, he performed with his own working bands, some co-led by altoist Gene Quill. In the mid-1950's, Quincy Jones hired Phil to play lead alto in the big band that Dizzy Gillespie took to the Middle East for the State Department and in 1959, Quincy himself would hire Woods in the same capacity for the musical show Free And Easy, which folded in Europe. The band stayed on to tour there for one year.
The list of musicians and singers with whom Phil Woods has performed and/or recorded reads like a Who's Who of jazz: Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman (with whom he toured the Soviet Union in 1962, again for the State Department), Bill Evans, Michel Legrand, Oliver Nelson, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Barnet and Bob Brookmeyer are just a few of those stars.
In 1968, Phil went to live in Europe where he formed the European Rhythm Machine. Together they played all over the world until 1973 when Woods returned to the United States. After a brief stay in Los Angeles, Phil moved back to the New York area and formed the Phil Woods Quartet (now Quintet). Two of the original members of that group, Steve Gilmore and Bill Goodwin, are still with him almost fifteen years later.
A consistent poll winner, Phil is proudest of his accomplishments as leader of the Phil Woods Quintet.
"Critics Pick" - Nancy Ann Lee, JazzTimes, March 1997
"...lyrical and heartfelt..." - Scott Yanow, Jazziz, March 1997
"Woods' dedication to...Astor Piazzola and...Elis Regina is actually a tribute to himself: a jazz musician who desires to move beyond the traditional world of jazz, of which he is a stellar member. His latest recording is a work of art...Those seeking unusual treats could do no better than to taste this banquet of delicacies." - R.T. Rapport, April 1997
"...one of his most beautiful albums to date..Woods magnificently displays both his classically trained side and his masterful jazz chops...Astor and Elis is one of my top picks for best album of 1996. It's a gorgeous CD that should appeal to Woods' fans as well as to those who love subtle South American rhythms." - Nancy Ann Lee, Jazz & Blues, November 1996