Howard Fishman

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Howard Fishman
Birth name Howard Fishman
Born Hartford, CT
Origin Brooklyn, New York, United States
Genres Jazz, blues, rock, folk-pop, New Orleans jazz, country, funk gospel
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter, Composer, Playwright, Actor, Director, Writer
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano, banjo
Years active 1998 – present
Labels Monkey Farm Records
Associated acts Howard Fishman Quartet, Biting Fish Brass Band, Basement Tapes Project

Howard Fishman is an American singer, guitarist, bandleader, and composer from Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn Magazine describes his discography as "steeped in country, soul, gospel, rock, blues...jazz, Gypsy swing, and American folk."[1]


Fishman is a singer, guitarist, composer, and bandleader. His music incorporates influences from New Orleans jazz, indie pop and rock, gospel, and country music.

WAMC's Joe Donahue describes Fishman as having begun "his musical career on the streets of New Orleans and the subways of New York before landing his first major engagement at the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel in 1999."[2] He has since headlined in major venues both in the United States and abroad, including The Steppenwolf Theatre, The Blue Note, NJPAC, The Pasadena Playhouse, Joe's Pub, The Bottom Line, and Le Petit Journal in Paris. He made his Lincoln Center debut in February, 2007, when he was presented as part of this season's American Songbook series. Fishman has also been a guest on various NPR programs, making feature-length appearances on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross,[3] "World Cafe" with David Dye, "The Leonard Lopate Show"[4] and "Soundcheck" with John Schaefer,[5] among others.[6]

Primarily known as a songwriter, Fishman began his career immersed in early jazz, folk, blues, and country music. He later combined them with pop, classical, and experimental music to create his own style.


The Howard Fishman Quartet[edit]

Fishman’s first project was The Howard Fishman Quartet, a band that first appeared on the NYC scene in 1999, who went from performing on Brooklyn subway platforms to a nine-month residency at the Algonquin Oak Room. The original group featured Russell Farhang on violin, Peter Ecklund on cornet, and Jason Sypher on bass. Fishman led the band on guitar, vocals, and (occasionally) banjo, playing genres that range from early jazz to pop, blues, parlor songs and rural numbers. A few months after the release of their first CD, The Howard Fishman Quartet, Jason Sypher was replaced by Jon Flaugher on bass. A second CD, The Howard Fishman Quartet, Vol. 2, featuring additional material from the sessions that produced the first CD, was released in 2005.

The quartet toured Paris in May 2000, and returned to become a fixture on the New York music scene, garnering favorable reviews from The New York Times, The New Yorker, Le Monde, The International Herald Tribune, and The Village Voice. The band was awarded the BackStage Award for "Outstanding Musical Group".

Second Quartet[edit]

Trumpeter Erik Jekabson joined the Howard Fishman Quartet in the summer of 2000 (replacing cornetist Peter Ecklund). After two of the four original members left and Fishman began writing more original material, the new HFQ began to pursue a different musical path. Trading their suits and ties in for T-shirts and jeans, the band took up regular residencies at downtown hotspots like Joe's Pub at the Public Theater and hipster venues in Brooklyn like Pete's Candy Store and Galapagos, where they joined the burgeoning Williamsburg music scene. The shows became more experimental and wild, and Fishman's original material took center stage.

The second album, I Like You A Lot, was included on Andrew Dansby's list of top albums of 2001 in Rolling Stone[7] and landed Fishman his first national exposure as a featured guest on NPR's "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross.[8]

The Basement Tapes Project[edit]

Fishman's Basement Tapes Project had its debut at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater in New York City in 2006. Over the course of three evenings, Fishman and members of his band presented most of the over 70 songs, both officially released and bootlegged, that have come to be known as Bob Dylan and The Band's Basement Tapes.[9] The first night, "The Old, Weird America," inspired by Greil Marcus's book of the same name, featured the traditional songs and covers recorded during the original sessions.

Night two, "Erase That, Garth", featured the still-unreleased originals from those sessions, including such Dylan cult favorites like "I'm Not There (1956)," "All You Have to Do Is Dream" and "Sign On The Cross". The final concert, "This Wheel Shall Explode!" included all the material from the official Columbia Records release "The Basement Tapes".

A CD/DVD featuring highlights from these shows, Howard Fishman Performs Bob Dylan & The Band's 'Basement Tapes' Live At Joe's Pub was released in 2007. The project has subsequently been programmed at performing arts centers across America, including Lincoln Center (where it was featured as part of the "American Songbook" series), at The Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, and Duke University.[10]

The Biting Fish Brass Band[edit]

Fishman's Biting Fish Brass Band, formed in 2008, features Fishman fronting a New Orleans-style brass band and performing an eclectic repertoire that includes street-beat style, traditional gospel, covers, as well as Fishman's originals.

A former New Orleans resident,[11] Fishman brings his deep affection for Louisiana music to bear, with references to classic R&B stylists Smiley Lewis and Professor Longhair, jazz legends Danny Barker and Jelly Roll Morton, and explores some of the region's rural Cajun repertoire. Regular members of the Biting Fish include Skatalites trombonist Andrae Murchison, trumpet player Etienne Charles, sousaphonist Kenneth Bentley, Jr., and percussionists Jordan Perlson, Moses Patrou, and Jeremy "Bean" Clemons. The group has toured Northern Europe several times, and is a favorite in Finland and Estonia.[12] In 2013, they headlined the August Blues Festival at Haapsalu Castle in Estonia.[13]

we are destroyed[edit]

we are destroyed is an original theater work created by Howard Fishman that incorporates original music, songs, text, and dialogue to explore an archetypal chapter in the American Story, the Donner Party tragedy. It has been described by Fishman as "a tone poem, a jazz opera, a musical inquiry".[14]

Excerpts from we are destroyed were first performed as part of the New Works Now! Festival at The Public Theater. Expanded versions and excerpts have subsequently been presented at Joe’s Pub in New York City, The Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, The Pasadena Playhouse in California, as part of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab West and, most recently, at The Abrons Arts Center in NYC in its first semi-staged production, directed by Ed Schmidt. A number of songs from the score of we are destroyed have been recorded by Fishman on his various albums, including "In Another Life," "Do What I Want," and "A New Life" on Do What I Want. The complete score has not yet been recorded, and the project awaits its first fully staged production.

Trilogy of albums[edit]

In January 2009, Fishman entered the recording studio to record three CDs of all-new material—each with a different theme and group of musicians. All three CDs were released in 2010.

The first CD, Better Get Right, features the Biting Fish Brass Band on a set of material that pays homage to Fishman's musical roots in New Orleans. No Further Instructions is a concept album about traveling through Romania and Eastern Europe and features Fishman backed by a string quartet. The World Will Be Different is Fishman’s most personal album to date, concerned mainly with a turbulent, passionate love affair.

Howard Fishman Quartet Vol. III[edit]

In 2011, Fishman released a third installment of his series of quartet recordings, reuniting with his original violinist Russell Farhang, original cornet player Peter Ecklund, and bassist Andrew Hall for an album of songs with the subtitle Moon Country, featuring the music of Hoagy Carmichael.

Connie's Piano Songs[edit]

In 2014, Fishman produced an album entitled Connie's Piano Songs, consisting of recordings of the "Art Songs" of Elizabeth Connie Converse, sung by soprano Charlotte Mundy accompanied by pianist Christopher Goddard for the Monkey Farm Records label.

A Star Has Burnt My Eye[edit]

Fishman's play A Star Has Burnt My Eye, featuring the songs of Connie Converse, has been given workshop showing at Joe's Pub, Henry Street Settlement, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, at the Vox Festival at Dartmouth College, and, most recently, in the spring of 2015, in a short run at The Brick Theater in a workshop production that featured Fishman, along with the performers Jean Rohe, Charlotte Mundy and Liam Robinson.[15]


  • The Howard Fishman Quartet (1999)
  • I Like You A Lot (2001)
  • Do What I Want (2002)
  • Look At All This! (2005)
  • The Howard Fishman Quartet Vol. II (1999/2005)
  • Performs Bob Dylan & The Band's "Basement Tapes" Live At Joe's Pub (2007)
  • Better Get Right (2010)
  • No Further Instructions (2010)
  • The World Will Be Different (2010)
  • The Howard Fishman Quartet Vol. III: Moon Country (2011)
  • Connie's Piano Songs (2014) (Producer only)
  • Uncollected Stories (2015)


External links[edit]