Dave Frishberg is a sports buff with a severe case of retromania. He longs for the days when "basketballs had laces and halfbacks played safety on defense...and there were parking places," an era commemorated in "The Dear Departed Past."
In this live session, recorded in 2005, Frishberg performs his patented combination of fine piano, wry rhymes, rhythms and wit. "Gotta Get Me Some ZZZ" was, as you might imagine, written in the wee small hours. He dispenses financial advice in "Walkin' On Wall Street." He displays defensive aggression on "Who Do You Think You Are, Jack Dempsey?" and quiet exasperation on "Can't Take You Nowhere." The latter had its origin in a Tiny Kahn/Al Cohn instrumental. Frishberg also reflects his jazz roots in adaptations of Bob Brookmeyer's "Useless Waltz" and "Zoot Walked In" by Zoot Sims and Gerry Mulligan. And then there are the perennials, "My Attorney Bernie" and "Listen Here."
But it's time for baseball and the past. Baseball has its musical traditions: the difficult and often-mangled national anthem, the seventh-inning rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and percussive encouragement by the mighty organ. Frishberg's many contributions to the national pastime include the rhyming-ballplayer-names bossa nova, "Van Lingle Mungo" and the later "Dodger Blue." Ah! Van Lingo Mungo - 14 years in the majors, 120 wins and an ERA of 3.47. (I owe this tidbit to www.baseball-almanac.com where you can find the lyric and accompanying stats, plus a delightful story about when Frishberg met Mungo.)
Frishberg serves up a group of clever and tuneful songs that he wrote for a show about the 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal. We travel in time with the hero, Frankie, as he tries to change the course of baseball history. "Catbird Seat" describes the lip-smacking joy of the fixer, contrasted with the innocent joy of the game in "Play Ball." "Matty" is a hymn to the baseball icon, Christy Mathewson. Girlfriend Eloise expresses frustration over Frankie's attitude with "You'd Rather Have the Blues" while the most dramatic song, "For the Wife and the Kid," describes the second thoughts of the pitcher who is in on the fix. Unfortunately never produced, but can you think of a baseball musical other than "Damn Yankees?"
My fantasy: "Van Lingle Mungo" replaces "Take Me Out to the Ball Game " for that seventh-inning stretch. Play ball!