Carl Fischer is a hard-working musician, primarily known for his work on trumpet and flugelhorn. If you’ve gone to a Billy Joel concert in the last eight years, you’ve definitely enjoyed his playing. In an in-depth interview with St. Louis Magazine, Carl discusses working with Billy and what it takes to be a successful sideman. Here is an excerpt:
How did you start working with Billy Joel?
There was a Broadway show in New York called Movin’ Out. … I was a sub on it for the first two years, and I became principal trumpet player for the last year. … Long story short: our show was closing at the end of December, and Billy was in rehearsal starting in December, and Tommy [Byrnes] … asked me if I’d be interested in showing up at the rehearsal and doing it. I said, “Absolutely.” He said he’d call me, he didn’t know when, but to have it together.
… Finally, I’ll never forget it, I got a call around 10:30 at night saying, “We’re going to do ‘Zanzibar’ tomorrow.” … I went in the next day and played the solo, Billy got up from the piano and walked out. I thought, “Oh, man, I guess he didn’t like it. This is bad.” Then, as he was walking out, Billy turned around and said, “Man, we sound like grownups,” and left. Everybody was laughing and very positive, and I asked Tommy, “What’s going on?” He said, “Billy equates sounding like grownups as a good thing. It’s a really good thing. It’s all positive.”
… Fast-forward to now, and this December will begin my ninth year, which is pretty amazing. It’s evolved to where I play tenor saxophone and soprano saxophone, trombone, trumpet and flugelhorn. I play parts, and I have three little solos throughout the night depending on what we play. Billy’s very cognizant right now about changing the set list. He likes changing it up, and playing some different tunes out of his catalogue.