Music: Out There Forever

He was no Benny Goodman on the clarinet, but he got by. His bluesy, hard-driving howl on Caldonia (1945) showed him to be a catchy singer—as big-band leaders go, that is. But what really enabled Woody Herman to climb to the top 30 years ago and stay there was two quite different talents: a high sense of musical style and a genius for leadership. He had a rare ability to fuse a collection of raw young musicians into a polished and pulsating band. He could also yield to the prevailing pop taste without losing a certain acerbic jazzy quality all his...

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