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As an amateur sax player, I always take notice when great players pass on from this earth. In September we lost two important jazz sax greats – Wilton Felder (September 27th) and Phil Woods (September 4th).
As I thought about their work, it occurred to me that both men played on Steely Dan albums. I couldn’t recall of the top of my head which songs they played on so I did a little research and was reminded that Felder played bass (not sax) on “Chain Lightning” and Woods was on “Doctor Wu” – both from Katy Lied (1975). Now that’s a pretty strange coincidence!
Felder is most well known as a founding member of The Jazz Crusaders. In that band he was known as a tenor sax player. Check out his work on Carole King’s “So Far Away” from the live album Scratch, where he holds a near one minute long note toward the end. The audience is whooping encouragement at first. As the tension builds, some guy shouts “stop” and there’s some nervous laughter to break it. It’s a marvelous moment caught on tape.
But Felder was also was an “in demand” session bass player on recordings for many popular music artists. He played bass on the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” to mention just a few of the hits. He also played bass on albums by Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell.
Woods was known as the “New Bird” in tribute to his influence, Charlie Parker. (He later married Parker’s widow.) The bulk of his career remained close to his bebop roots. He played with many of the greats including Dizzy and Monk.
But he also made some advances into popular music. He can be heard on Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” and Paul Simon’s “Have a Good Time.”
Sometimes, like this week, the SotW writes itself!
Enjoy… until next week.