“Phil Scarff’s Indian classical performance on soprano saxophone amazed the audience…
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
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 legend Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, 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.
“Indian classical music on the saxophone! Phil Scarff… played different ragas with finesse… enthralled the audience… subtle and appealing.” – Times of India
“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
“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