A performance by Dave Frishberg, appeared last night at One Step Down, conjures up all kinds of curious images. He looks a bit like Woody Allen, and his satirical lyrics only reinforce the comparison. His voice, however, reminds one more of the mellifluous croak a Muppet might project, while his casual phrasing suggests the influence of a few figures better known to jazz audiences -- Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, to name two.
Then there's his piano playing to consider. Last night's version of "The Crave" was spiced with a kind of Spanish seasoning its author, Jelly Roll Morton, always favored. Still, comparisons don't reveal the extent of Frishberg's talent. No stuffy archivist he, Frishberg exudes such an abundance of low-key charm that everything he performs bears his own personalized scribble of a signature.
As for original material, there's no one like him -- whether singing "The Sports Page" ("The only place to go when a fella wants to know the score") or "I'm Hip ("Sammy Davis Jr. knows my friend, I'm hip") or "The Swan Song," a tale about songwriter's block ("One side popped them out like waffles, the good ones and the awfuls").
Frishberg appears again tonight and tomorrow night.