Born: December 7, 1956 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
Saxophonist and composer Phil Scarff performs Indian classical music and jazz, and leads the acclaimed world-jazz ensemble, Natraj. Appearances include India's JazzYatra and Prayojana International Music Festival; PANAFEST, Ghana's major international festival (West Africa); the Guelph Jazz Festival, Canada; the Boston Globe Jazz Festival; the Lake George Jazz Weekend; and the legendary Gayan Samaj Deval Club in Kolhapur, India. Phil is featured on 24 internationally acclaimed CDs, including four as leader of Natraj.
Phil has shared the spotlight with icons of Indian classical music including saxophone great Kadri Gopalnath, percussion masters Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman and Trichy Sankaran, Sangeet Samrat Chitravina N. Ravikiran, and bamboo flute maestros Ronu Majumdar and Shashank; as well as African master drummers Godwin Agbeli and Abubakari Lunna. Phil performs and records with creative jazz ensembles including Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Composers Alliance, and Sandy Prager.
Phil has presented workshops and lectures on jazz and world music at institutions such as the New England Conservatory of Music, Tufts University, Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts at Kalakshetra Foundation (Chennai, India), Lawrence University, Bowdoin College, Dartmouth College, the Guelph Jazz Festival, the University of Rhode Island, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Phil studied in Pune, India, with vocalist Pandit Shreeram G. Devasthali, leading sundri player Suryakant Khaladkar, and shehnai master Shyamrao Lonkar, and in Boston with sitarist Peter Row and vocalist Warren Senders. He studied the intricate polyrhythms of West Africa and performed as a member of the Agbekor Drum and Dance Society. He studied jazz theory and improvisation with noted saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and percussion great Bob Gullotti.
Phil Scarff offers North Indian classical (Hindustani) concerts. His approach to Indian classical music is modeled after shehnai and bamboo flute, and his concerts cover a range of Indian classical styles, including bada khyal, chota khyal, tarana, thumri, and dhun.
Phil Scarff presents educational workshops and residencies on Indian classical music, world music, and jazz. Workshops are tailored to the musical level and interests of your group or audience. They are interactive, informative, entertaining, and engaging. Phil is experienced in presenting workshops to audiences of all ages, from children through adults, and of all musical levels, from general and family audiences through college-level music educators. Contact us for more information.
Music can be provided for weddings, functions, and corporate events, including diversity and multicultural programs. For Hindu wedding ceremonies, we recommend shehnai-style music, focusing on festive ragas. We work with the family and the priest, and take cues from the flow of the ceremony so that the music we provide best enhances the ceremony. We recommend a blend of Indian classical music and jazz for cocktails, dinner, or other background music. This is a very effective way of providing music that bridges cultures and appeals to guests of different backgrounds and cultures.
Phil develops a raga beautifully on the saxophone... The effect was that of a bansuri (Indian bamboo flute) or shehnai (Indian double-reed instrument). - Saptahik Sakal, Pune, India
Highlighted by Phil Scarff's scorching tenor [saxophone] solo... - All About Jazz
Indeed close listening is mandatory to hear where Scarff... merges the raga with straight-ahead saxophonic lines to delightedly leap from bop logic out into a musical realm which resembles those introduced by Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, et al. - Cadence
Phil Scarff's Indian classical performance on soprano saxophone amazed the audience... He played with a sweet, sonorous tone, soulfulness, and focus equal to those of a great Indian classical musician... The spellbound listeners were moved and touched... Scarff won the hearts of the connoisseurs. - Tarun Bharat, Kolhapur, India
A cerebral improviser who develops a solo logically, deliberately, and passionately. - Jazz Now
Scarff's virtuosity was in no doubt... superb. - Afternoon on Sunday, Mumbai, India
Raga Bhairavi reminded one of Bismillah Khan's thumri for Scarff's saxophone sounded so much like a shehnai. - Kala Arts Quarterly
Phil Scarff... enchanted musician. - Downbeat
Saxophonist Phil Scarff: real find. - The Sunday Observer, Mumbai, India