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Phil Scarff

Saxophonist and composer Phil Scarff performs Indian classical music and jazz, and leads the acclaimed world-jazz ensembles, Natraj and the Lewis Porter-Phil Scarff Group. World-jazz appearances include India's JazzYatra and Prayojana International Music Festival; PANAFEST, Ghana's major international festival; the Guelph Jazz Festival, Canada; the Boston Globe Jazz Festival. Indian classical performances include India's famed Tansen Samaroh (Gwalior); Nehru Center, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. and Dadar-Matunga Cultural Centre (Mumbai); Saptak School of Music (Ahmedabad); Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture (Kolkata); ICCR Theater and India Habitat Centre (Delhi); and JKK (Jaipur). Phil is featured on 40 internationally acclaimed CDs/DVDs, including seven as leader.

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, Filmprov, and OddSong, and Sandy Prager.

Phil has presented workshops and lectures on jazz and world music at institutions such as the New England Conservatory of Music, Berklee College of Music, Univ. of North Texas, Univ. of OK, Tufts Univ., Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts at Kalakshetra Foundation (Chennai, India), Lawrence Univ., Bowdoin College, Dartmouth College, the Guelph Jazz Festival, the University of Rhode Island, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He studied with noted saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and percussion great Bob Gullotti. Phil studied in Pune, India, with vocalist Pandit Shreeram G. Devasthali, leading sundri artist Pandit Suryakant Khaladkar, and shehnai master Pandit 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.


Phil Scarff offers jazz, world-jazz, and 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.

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Album Review

Darrell Katz & OddSong: Galeanthropolgy

Read "Galeanthropolgy" reviewed by Jerome Wilson

OddSong is a chamber ensemble led by composer Darrell Katz, and distilled from the membership of the larger JCA Orchestra. It features vibraphone, violin, saxophones and voice, on music which veers between art songs and bluesy sax-led jazz tunes. Most of Katz's original compositions on this album feature poems by his late wife, poet Paula Tatarunis, but the tracks also stretch out to include songs by Jimi Hendrix, James Taylor, Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington. Katz's original writing, ...

Album Review

The JCA Orchestra: Live At The BPC

Read "Live At The BPC" reviewed by Jerome Wilson

The JCA Orchestra has been an important part of the Boston jazz scene since it formed in 1985. Several of its recordings are dominated by the compositions of its leader, Darrell Katz, but this live concert from the Berklee Performance Center features works by several orchestra members other than Katz and gives a fuller picture of the orchestra's range. Violinist Mimi Rabson contributes two atmospheric pieces. “Romanpole" is a musical culture clash inspired by the period when the ...

Album Review

Aardvark Jazz Orchestra: Faces Of Souls

Read "Faces Of Souls" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi

Si avvicina al cinquantesimo anno di attività l'Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, fondata nel 1973 da Mark Harvey e ancora diretta dall'inossidabile trombettista, compositore e bandleader di Boston. In questo nuovo disco--il decimo pubblicato con la Leo Records e registrato live in varie occasioni--ritroviamo il consueto eclettismo della formazione, capace di passare da quadri in libera improvvisazione a concitazioni rock anche in uno stesso brano. Per la verità stavolta i contrasti sono più smussati e tendono a prevalere compostezza ...

Album Review

Phil Scarff: Ragas on Saxophone

Read "Ragas on Saxophone" reviewed by Geno Thackara

Plenty of Western players have been inspired by the exotic sounds and qualities of Indian music. It's a much smaller number who've formally studied its classical traditions, however, and fewer still have been successful enough to master the forms and play to the acclaim of Indian audiences. Quick--can you name one off the top of your head apart from John McLaughlin? If not, you're probably still in the majority even among jazz connoisseurs. If Phil Scarff is a ...

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Galloping Goat Announces New Release by Phil Scarff

Source: Phil Scarff

Galloping Goat announces a new Indian classical release by saxophone virtuosos Phil Scarff, Ragas from Dusk, Galloping Goat GGCD-4422. Phil Scarff is pioneering the performance of North Indian classical music on soprano saxophone, exquisitely capturing the subtlety and depth of this music on this Western instrument. He has “beautifully molded the saxophone to Indian classical music," extols Sakal, Kolhapur, India. In his new release, Ragas from Dusk, Phil Scarff presents bada khyal and chhota khyal in popular ragas, as well ...

”Indian classical music on the saxophone! Phil Scarff... played different ragas with finesse... enthralled the audience... subtle and appealing.” - Times of India

"Phil Scarff… delirious tenor sax solo… heady solos by… Scarff on soprano." - All About Jazz

"The highlight of the festival was… a performance by Saskia Rao de Haas on Indian cello with US based saxophonist Phil Scarff… The audience was thrilled… Their performance garnered an unending stream of applause." - Dainik Bhaskar, Gwalior, India

"Saxophonist Scarff impresses in his Hindustani performance… played… with brilliance." - Afternoon Despatch & Courier, Mumbai, India

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson


JCA Recordings


Faces Of Souls

Leo Records


Live At The BPC

JCA Recordings


Democratic Vistas

Leo Records


Ragas on Saxophone

Galloping Goat


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