THE MAN BEHIND THE MUSIC: DAVID FISHEL & THE LIVERPOOL JAZZ CLUB
So ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to introduce David Fishel. I presume that you’ll by now have attended the ParrJazz session at Frederiks, made it down to the Caledonia on a Friday and seen what’s to love about the Grapes on Sundays. But even if you haven’t, I think it’s time you heard about Liverpool Jazz Club… The “finest free music night” in Liverpool started at Metro on Victoria Street in September 2003, but since migrating to the Everyman Theatre in October 2014, it has become an essential feature of the city’s jazz music scene. Behind it all stands the man best known for his three-fingered blues piano technique and his radio voice, David Fishel: “I’ve seen myself on video and I’m horrified, I think “that can’t be me” (…) people say I look like Animal from the Muppets!”
David returned to Liverpool in April 2008, bringing with him success in the music and media industries as radio presenter, interviewer, voiceover artist and more. It was then that Liverpool was awarded it UNESCO title as City of Culture: “I thought, timing! It was cool. (But then) I wandered around town and there’s no jazz, none, there was nothing (so) I start looking at potential venues, I go down the steps to Victoria Street to a place called Metro, and I thought, MAGIC! What with the brickwork and the aesthetic, this is a jazz club!”. Peter Lee, Metro venue owner, wasn’t so sure: “he said ‘jazz? Fuck off man, I don’t want jazz, that’s not going to happen.’ I said I’d make it happen. So there it was, every Monday for three and a half years: piano, bass, drums, a house band. We started the night as ‘Jazz ‘n’ Jokes’ (but) it died on its ass. I rebranded it as Liverpool Jazz Club and the press loved it”.
After migrating to Lennon’s Bar on Matthew Street, the Club then visited the Eleanor Rigby Hotel for “a couple of sessions” and settled at Kingdom on Harrington Street. David pauses here: “white leather sofas, footballer’s wives and cocktails (…) that died on its ass, then (we) went to the Liner Hotel on June 27th 2013”. It was then that Liverpool Jazz Club faced a different challenge; David smiles, an odd look in his eyes, “they’re the nicest people in the world at the Liner, they were so accommodating and tried everything. But the room was very similar to an airport lounge and not suited to a jazz night; ‘fasten your seat belts’ and you’d have felt comfortable, but it just was not a jazzy environment”. It’s then that I understood the success of Liverpool Jazz Club as I know it, the importance of finding the perfect venue, the perfect aesthetic for the perfect night.
David lights up once more as he tells me about his ‘old friend’ Thomas Lang who was involved in the new build at the Everyman, and became Food and Beverage Manager. So he tells me about approaching Thomas and the response: “he said, ‘the ever-ebullient David Fishel’, I love that description of me”. David giggles, then sighs: “I did what I always do, and it’s beautiful, I love it.”
We then approach the recent suggestions to make Liverpool Jazz Club a fortnight slot, rather than the first Wednesday of each month, as it is now. David shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head: “I don’t think we should go fortnightly, the only way I’d go fortnightly is if we come up with something smart for that second session, so the first Wednesday of every month the band get in there; I have the glass of wine and we have people come in there and we have a jam. But that second gig halfway through each month, I would have a proper guest, a Norwegian or an Italian or a big name from London but… I don’t know.” He tells me more about the various suggestions that have arisen, but there’s seems to be little consensus.
So that brings our conversation towards its close, but I have time for one more question: why jazz? David takes a nostalgic breath and his face, for once, turns serious. He tells me about the band heroism of the Merseybeat: “everybody was in a band, even if you didn’t own an instrument, it was like being a Hell’s Angel and you took the bus, you didn’t own a bike. It was insane. But it was 3 chords, 4 chords, I got bored. So then I heard a band called The Peddlers and I had never heard anything like it; it was a real modern feel, bit of swing, bit of funk, I couldn’t believe it. So I went out and got their album and learned every note on every instrument and then tuned in to find jazz on the radio. I came to Charlie Parker first and then worked my way back to Louis Armstrong, who are without doubt the two greatest figures in jazz, ever. So I became a terrible, terrible music snob at the age of fourteen and I missed it all: Eagles, who? Jimmy who? I didn’t know the metal bands, I didn’t know the pop bands, I heard the names but I couldn’t tell you one song. And then you’ve got your Ray Charles, your Stevie Wonder, your Earth Wind & Fire, what more do you need? (I still think) there are amazing people outside jazz that jazz influences. I fell in love at such a young age, I understood it, it spoke to me it was a language that I understood. I don’t know how I could understand it but I did, I knew what Charlie Parker was playing and I couldn’t believe he could play it at such speed, so coherently, expressing so much through 16 bars. I think, there’s no other music that can match jazz, it’s the most spontaneous creative art form that human beings have created ever, that we know of, nothing comes near it.”
“But I am not a jazz musician, I should make that clear”.
Chatting to David Fishel has made me realise how fortunate we are in Liverpool, to have people of such diverse influences and backgrounds; these are the people who contribute to the eclectic nature of the music scene and make it such a pleasure for our generation to experience. So when you find yourself on Hope Street on Wednesday April 6th around 8pm, head to the Everyman Theatre Bistro (downstairs).
We’ll see you there.