Dave Frishberg | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Dave Frishberg 


Is Dave Frishberg a cult figure? He's never led a church, but he does hail bop--as well as the swing-era rhythms that preceded bop--in his clever and elegant piano solos. And his songs have inspired fervent devotion among an enlightened minority. Frishberg writes both the words and music for most of the songs in his repertoire, which is dominated by perfectly aimed darts that puncture all manner of foibles: "My Attorney Bernie" offers his take on the princes of the legal realm (who have "Dodgers season boxes and an office full of foxes"); "Blizzard of Lies" uses the small fibs that ensnare our lives to comic effect. But Frishberg proves just as sharp in his chiseled and idiosyncratic ballads, including the bucolic "Sweet Kentucky Ham," the lilting "Marilyn Monroe," and a devastating depiction of melancholic yearning called "You Are There." Some of Frishberg's wittier works, notably "I'm Hip" and "Peel Me a Grape," have become mainstays of others' repertoires. And don't forget his baseball songs--like "Matty," an ode to the indomitable Christy Mathewson, who pitched for the Giants from 1900-'16, and the marvelous "Van Lingle Mungo," with its found-poetry lyrics of the oddball names of past players--which make his appearance during the first full week of the baseball season especially fortuitous. For most listeners, the off-kilter brilliance of Frishberg's writing and the deadpan croak of his singing voice tend to detract attention from his nonverbal attributes. But before he began singing for his supper, he had established his reputation as a pianist, and an awfully good one: his keyboard work reveals the same sense of old-fashioned craft and unreconstructed dignity as his lyrics. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, and next Friday and Saturday, April 11 and 12, 9 and 11 PM, Toulouse Cognac Bar, 2140 Lincoln Park West; 773-665-9071. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Dave Frishberg photo/ uncredited.

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