Woody Herman wasn't the greatest of jazz clarinetists, and he wasn't shy about pointing out his frustrations with the horn from time to time, or the embarassment he sometimes felt when compared to players like Goodman and Shaw. But if Woody was anything, he was a good sport. One particularly funny moment came in an interview with Ralph Gleason, published postumously in Woody Herman: Chronicles of the Herds by William Clancy and Audry Kenton (Schirmer Books, 1995). Here is an excerpt from pages 210-211:
R.G.: Which instrument has been the most fun to play?
Woody: It seems, if I have any natural ability, it comes out on the saxophone, because I can pick up a baritone, or a tenor, or an alto or even a soprano and get a pretty decent sound out of it. Any yet I've fought for years and years to get a really nice clarinet sound and it still escapes me. [...]
R.G.: Would you rather play the clarinet, then?
Woody: Well, it's a challenge, 'cause I can't make what I want to make on it, whereas with alto, in most instances the only thing is that my thoughts jazzwise on alto are pretty nothing. In other words, you will find that in most cases, it will be a melodic line that I attempt and nothing more.
R.G.: What do you want to do with the clarinet?
Woody: Break it in half! What else?
R.G.: I can see that I am not going to get you in a serious discussion of that.