Phil Woods was a great alto sax player, by any measure. He was a jazz musician first and foremost and kept some very good company over the years – touring with the likes of Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman.
He also did pop session work, playing on tracks from Steely Dan, Paul Simon, and most famously is responsible for the now iconic sax solo on Billy Joel’s 1977 ballad Just The Way You Are (the second song from his album The Stranger to be featured on the blog in a week).
But the interesting thing about this solo (at 3:03 in the above video) is that it was not in fact done in one take, but was spliced together from 6 different takes by producer Phil Ramone.
And that’s the thing about studios – there are all sorts of techniques available to artists, producers and engineers to make tracks sound whatever way they want – even more so now than in the 1970s.
But beware. If you can’t cut it live, you won’t last long in this streaming age. Only a few can live off their recordings alone. Most have to bring the show on the road. And if your performances can’t cash the cheque that your recorded tracks have written, your fans won’t be long letting you know.
Phil Woods knew the story. His namesake Mr. Ramone may have chopped these particular solos up but his playing was of a standard that he could produce dozens of amazing solos, each one better than the next.
Focus on your playing, not on making yourself sound good in the studio. It’s a better long-term strategy.