Obituary: Jazz club was a labour of love for Hermann Nieweler

The owner of Hermann’s Jazz Club, one of Victoria’s landmark music venues, died Wednesday night.

Hermann Nieweler, 79, died in Vancouver where he lived, said Nichola Walkden, a waitress at the View Street club.

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She said he had been ill for a month.

“His lungs were filling with water continuously,” she said. “They never found the source. They were just treating him.”

Hermann’s Jazz Club has been in business for 35 years, hosting the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Wheeler, Renee Rosnes, Dewey Redman, Loudon Wainwright III, Hal Galper, Brian Auger, Judy Collins, Eric Bibb, David Francey and Rob McConnell.

A retirement party at the club had been planned for Nieweler on Sunday. “We’re retracting that party, so we can probably have a memorial party,” Walkden said.

Nieweler had a kidney transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver in 2010. He at first found himself in a wheelchair, but recovered his strength by walking around Cleveland Dam in North Vancouver, where he was living. By 2013, he was strong enough to rappel down the downtown Victoria CIBC building for charity.

Born to a German farming family in Munster, Westphalia, Nieweler immigrated to Canada by himself when he was 22. He worked for years as a contractor.

Hermann’s Jazz Club was a labour of love for Nieweler, who especially favoured traditional jazz.

His first Victoria jazz club was the Dixieland Inn on Government Street. The name eventually changed to Hermann’s Jazz Club.

In 1986, it shifted operations to the current location — a homey, low-ceilinged room with autographed photos, jazz posters and musical instruments.

“Hermann was a good guy. He loved his place, I think. He always treated me well,” said trombonist Ian McDougall, who played Hermann’s many times.

“He’s a guy who liked jazz. He kept the place going. Without guys who want to do that, you’re screwed.”

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