Dave Frishberg arrived Thursday and closes tonight at the Vine St. Bar & Grill. The very brevity of this visit makes it the more valuable. There are lyricists in town, not to mention singers and pianists, who could do well by simply studying this gifted man night after night.
Frishberg's songs never wear out their welcome. If they are familiar ("Blizzard of Lies"), you sing along with it mentally, or whisper the next line to your companion to show your hipness. If they are new, you relish his capacity for matching the attractive melodies (many of them his own, some by Johnny Mandel or Al Cohn) to his words, most of which reveal a quirkily resourceful and witty mind.
"Let's Eat Home," for instance, is a menu of gustatory delights, touring the world for deluxe dinners ("New Year's Eve in Tel Aviv") before landing anticlimactically on the title line. Some of Frishberg's images are funny on the very face of them: How can you not react to a line like "In El Cajon we danced the night away"?
He takes particular pleasure in the derogatory ("I Can't Take You Nowhere") or the nostalgic. After smiling at his comedic concepts you may become misty eyed during the poignant "You Are There" or his tributes to a turn-of-the-century New York Giants pitcher and the 1920s jazzman Bix Beiderbecke.
Frishberg's piano solos and interludes are no less individual. Working without a rhythm section, he implies rather than states the beat, as if he had two right hands interacting.
Though his vocal timbre is about as operatic as Louis Armstrong's, it serves his purpose. He even manages to make certain tones sound downright sarcastic. This came in handy during the satirical "As Long as You're Looking Good," which he says he wrote a year ago with nobody in mind, but which he now dedicates to J. Danforth Quayle. Frishberg is not only a writer and a player, but a prophet to boot.