Sunday morning coming down

St. Paul native Dave Frishberg died on November 17. The New York Times obituary by Barry Singer covers his career and captures the Frishberg phenomenon. I learned things I didn’t know from Singer’s obituary and recommend it to readers who may be interested. By my lights, however, it doesn’t quite do justice to the insanely witty mind Frishberg put on display in the lyrics he wrote for his own or others’ music. I won’t be going too far out an a limb if I say that even if you don’t know his name, you probably know at least one of his songs.

In 2009 I had the great good fortune of catching Frishberg with Rebecca Kilgore at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency in New York. “I’m used to puzzled applause,” Frishberg said with some modesty after his opening number, but his material was almost perfectly self-explanatory and, I thought, fully appreciated by his audience (though my daughter observed that no one enjoyed the show more than I did).

John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey paid tribute to Frishberg on their Radio Deluxe show this weekend (podcast at the bottom). I have borrowed from their playlist to put together this compilation of songs, though occasionally turning elsewhere for the particular performance posted and slightly enlarging the playlist. We are far from even scratching the surface with this lineup. Here is Frishberg’s catalog. Please go exploring.

His mind worked in strange ways. This is Frishberg himself with “Who Do You Think You Are, Jack Dempsey?”

The sentiment may have become obsolete, but Rosemary Clooney does a beautiful job on “Do You Miss New York?”

In “Zoot Walks In” Frishberg adapted the Gerry Mulligan/Zoot Sims composition “The Red Door.” Below is John Pizzarelli’s medley of “Zoot Walks In” with the Zoot Sim/Al Cohn number “Morning Fun.”

Frishberg found an offbeat way to explore the love of major league baseball in “Van Lingle Mungo.” As I say, his mind worked in strange ways.

Here is Frishberg with Rebecca Kilgore on the Frank Loesser/Burton Lane number “The Lady’s In Love With You.”

We are crazy about Connie Evingson. In 2008 Connie persuaded Frishberg to accompany her on her collection of Frishberg numbers. This is the swinging title track (music by Johnny Mandel). Tenor saxophonist Dave Karr is Frishberg’s old friend and University of Minnesota classmate. He has regularly accompanied Connie over the years, as he does on this album. That is Karr on the sax backing and solo. Connie writes in the liner notes: “Little did I dream that one day I’d get to record an entire album of his songs — with him at the piano!”

Jessica Molaskey recorded a live set with Frishberg. They opened with “Who’s On First?,” the same number he opened the show with when I saw him with Rebecca Kilgore in 2009.

There is much more where that came from. Let’s bring Molaskey and Frishberg back. This is “Excuse Me For Living.”

Connie recorded a fantastic version of Frishberg’s classic “My Attorney Bernie” for her Frishberg collection. According to Frishberg himself, he wrote it for “Tim Brown’s party in Minneapolis.” On this track Frishberg is on piano and Karr is on flute. The playing, the singing, the song all overflow with wit.

We turn to Diana Krall for a rendition of Frishberg’s insanely witty (forgive me for repeating myself) “Peel Me a Grape.” Remember: “Save the fuzz for my pillow.”

Here it is one more time with Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis.

Below is this weekend’s Radio Deluxe featuring Frishberg’s work. The show notes state: “If you’re not familiar with Dave, his songs will probably sound familiar, which you’ll discover in this episode.” In the set above I have gone slightly beyond their playlist but included all the numbers they chose to honor Frishberg.

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