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Dave Frishberg: Retromania

If Dave Frishberg had never opened his mouth, he could have had a very complete career as a bop pianist-or even a stride pianist. If he had decided to sing other people’s tunes, he would have made a great living as a self-contained crooner. But as the jazz-flavored, satirical wit he has become, Frishberg is nonpareil among a handful of competitors: Bob Dorough, Jay Leonhart, and Mose Allison. Proof is in this CD, recorded at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City, Calif., a collection of old favorites and never-before recorded material.

Frishberg has honed his art to the point where he seems able to bend notes the way he bends tones, His accompaniment is perfectly synchronized with his voice. Even his gapfilling is eloquent. As for his mind, the old and new remain consistent: A passion for yesterday still emanates, as he reminds us in “The Dear Departed Past” from “the sentimental attic of my mind.” That’s because “tomorrow wasn’t built to last.” It’s imagery worthy of the Bergmans.

Frishberg’s highlight is reliving the Black Sox scandal in “Play Ball.” There’s not a dull moment in the set, and that includes his clever spoken intros.

Originally Published