TIR 85: Keyboardist Tells How Roy Ayers & Frankie Beverly Became Dyed-in-the-Woo Fans


Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on THE ONE: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.

Featured in TIR Episode 85 (2 Parts): One of the leading funk, soul and jazz session keyboardists of the 1970s and 1980s, Philip Woo, who was also a band member of Roy Ayers’ Ubiquity and Frankie Beverly and Maze. A child prodigy hailing from Seattle, by the time he reached high school Woo was a local funk band fixture, including being in a group that also featured a teenage Kenny G. That was until Ayers came to town and took him away to New York at age 19 to join the jazz-funk legend’s touring and studio band. He became immersed a rich Manhattan music scene in which funk, soul and jazz stars were playing or recording somewhere locally every day of the week.

A couple of years later, Woo struck out on his own and wound up doing extensive session and performance work with Ashford & Simpson, Candi Staton, Patti Labelle, Graham Central Station’s Patryce “Choc’Let” Banks and later on Grover Washington Jr., George Howard, Jeffrey Osborne, Gladys Knight, Deborah Harry, Cyndi Lauper, Whitney Houston and the Four Tops, among many others. In 1980 he joined Maze and is featured on that group’s Live in New Orleans, We Are One and Back to Basics albums. In the late 1990s, Woo relocated to Tokyo where he has resided ever since, continuing to work constantly in a variety of musical capacities that includes joining groups like Tower of Power when they tour Asia and playing local club gigs weekly with a crack band covering the gamut of well-known and obscure soul, funk and jazz songs.

Here, Woo reflects on his 45 years in the business and shares lots of unforgettable memories and accomplishments that include name dropping the several dozen legends and stellar musicians he has had the thrill of crossing paths with along his amazing journey. Stick around until near the end when he breaks out a bunch of terrific photos. Not sure this is what he had in mind when he coined the phrase, but as another famous keyboardist used to say, talking about Parliament-Funkadelic’s Bernie Worrell here, we all need Woo — and this interview is sure to have you saying Woo-hoo!