From Publishers Weekly
Lees (Cats of Any Color), who calls himself "one of the many souls whose lives were reshaped by Woody Herman," writes affectionately here about his friend and mentor, the great clarinetist, saxophonist, singer and band leader who was a major figure in the jazz world from the 1930s to his death in 1987. Drawing on interviews and informal conversations with Herman, his wife, his daughter and many of his friends and associates, he covers Herman's career from the early days on the road with various groups through his later popularity with his own bands-the "Herds"-which he led during the big band era and later. Herman's story has been told before, but Lees, with insight gained from years of friendship, is particularly successful at portraying the character of a likable, humorous man who was a father figure to his musicians and whose easygoing nature, lack of business sense and ill-fated choice of a business manager led to his well-known problems with the IRS. Especially moving are the descriptions of Herman's last days, when he was ill and weak, yet forced to keep working because of his enormous debt to the IRS.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Few bandleaders led lives as full as Woody Herman's. A clarinet prodigy, Herman launched his career in music early, rose to prominence in the swing era, investigated the bop revolution, and kept going long after his style of performance was diagnosed as being in decline. Lees' biography is remarkably comprehensive and as vivacious as Herman would have wanted. Lees worked for a while as Herman's publicist, and not only does he use the wealth of inside information he discovered during that hitch, but he also includes himself in the story, thereby adding an engrossing first-person perspective to the book's concluding chapters. But Lees' affinity for his subject does not impair his critical faculties. His description of the Herman-Stravinsky Ebony Concerto
performance is sharp, and Lees does not pull any punches in discussing what he considers the bandleader's lesser work. None of it is ever dry reading, and Lees' hilarious accounts of the wild goings-on among Woody's band members on the road will excite readers whose memories don't extend farther back than the invention of the compact disc. Aaron Cohen