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Jazz Review : Frishberg's Show Spans Five Decades

February 20, 1986|LEONARD FEATHER

Nominated for a Grammy with his "Live at Vine Street" album, Dave Frishberg was indeed live at Vine Street for the first of a series of Tuesday evenings at the Hollywood haven for the hip.

Frishberg may own the biggest memory bank in jazz. Just program him right, and out comes the decade of your desire. You want the '60s? Here is "Marilyn Monroe," Frishberg's haunting tribute (with an Alan Broadbent melody). The '50s? He's set lyrics to a Zoot Sims tune of those days, "Red Door," now retitled "Zoot Walks In."

Moving back to the '40s, he sings a tune Ray Nance recorded with Duke Ellington, "Otto Make That Riff Staccato." (Almost all of Frishberg's material, as he points out, is about people, some real, some fictional. When he tells you about his attorney Bernie, you're about convinced he must exist.)

The '30s are perhaps his favorite decade; it was the subject Tuesday of his opening medley, from "Song of the Wanderer" to "My Ideal." Frishberg works solo but, in effect, is accompanied by Dave Frishberg on bass (his walking left hand) and Dave Frishberg on drums (no pianist gets a more percussive sound).

Delving further back into the sentimental attic of his mind, he gave us "The Mooche," a 1928 Ellington piece offered as a raw, rumbling piano solo, and his own song "Dear Bix," dedicated to the cornetist who flourished in the '20s.

As he moves through his program of songs variously lyrical, satirical and, finally, hysterical ("I'm Hip"), Frishberg takes you through a time warp so convincingly that at the end of the show you expect the waiter to bring you a bill for $3.50 for your dinner.

Frishberg is almost--as Ellington himself liked to say about those he admired most--beyond category. Let us simply award him one star as lyricist, one as tunesmith, one as singer, one as pianist and a fifth just for that memory bank. That adds up to a total not too many performers can lay claim to in an age when it is a pleasant surprise to find, in a given artist, any one of these talents in full bloom. He is a winner with or without Grammies.

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