- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

Take simple and straightforward lyrics, mix them with traditional jazz, folksy tunes and melancholic violins, throw in some drumbeats, and, voila, you have the Howard Fishman Quartet, which plays tonight at Iota in Arlington.
It has not been easy for the Brooklyn-based group to reach success without a manager or the backing of a record label. However, the old word of mouth has proved to be almost as efficient. The band has performed at sold-out venues in New York and Paris, and its fan base is growing rapidly.
"It's much harder to succeed when there's no industry involved, but it's more gratifying when everything works out," says 32-year-old singer-songwriter Howard Fishman.
The quartet with Mr. Fishman on guitar and vocals, Russell Farhang on violin, Erik Jekabson on trumpet and Jonathan Flaugher on bass was formed in 1999. From being primarily a jazz band, the quartet has striven toward a more rock-oriented sound, adding drums, electric guitars and organs to the usual lineup.
"It happened organically," Mr. Fishman says. "I have never been a straight jazzhead. I like to check out different stuff. I get influenced by a lot of rock 'n' roll and pop, for example the Flaming Lips, Bjork, P.J. Harvey and the White Stripes."
For its latest album, "Do What I Want," the quartet has been backed by Mark McLean and Scott McLemore (drums), Geoff Gersh (electric guitar) and Brian Pearl (Wurlitzer/Hammond B3). Dating in New York is the concept of the album.
"I think that this record unconsciously came to be about dating in New York," Mr. Fishman says. "There's a lot of frustration involved but also excitement; it's a tantalizing thing."
The album includes "What Was It Like," which has the serenity of a traditional jazz tune that could be performed late in a smoky downtown jazz club. "Mary Ann" is a catchy love manifesto, which, according to Mr. Fishman "is not based on just one Mary Ann." The funky "Dating Game" is more rave than song, and "Nervous Breakdown" points an accusing forefinger:
I don't wanna hear you had another nervous breakdown, do you really think I have any sympathy? Every single day is another stupid crisis, after a while it sounds all the same to me/Why don't you get yourself together, why don't you leave me alone?

When choosing his favorite song on the album, Mr. Fishman mentions "In Another Life," a somber ballad that was written originally for a theater piece called "We Are Destroyed."
"There a woman sings it to her husband, who is very ill," Mr. Fishman says. "It's a lullaby, and she's singing him to sleep. The song is difficult to perform because it's heavy."
The Howard Fishman Quartet is performing for the first time in the Washington area since the release of its album. Mr. Fishman reveals what to anticipate from tonight's show:
"The audience can expect a high-energy show where we play a variety of material. We have a lot of time, so we'll be laid-back and relaxed. It will be an intimate, casual and exciting show."

Howard Fishman Quartet
Iota Club & Cafe, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
8:30 p.m. tonight
703/522-8340 or www.howardfishman.com

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