Blossom Dearie and Dave Frishberg at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center
“ ...This diminutive powerhouse established herself at the piano and held the house in the palm of her hand. ”
This Highlights in Jazz concert on April 14, 2005 at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York City was a salute to two unique performers whose careers have stretched many years; performing and recording separately and together. They have both accumulated a great many fans, illustrated by the just-about sold out, 900 plus seat concert venue.
The evening's format had them performing separately with Dave Frishberg starting off the evening singing a collection of his songs and accompanying himself on the piano. The opening number, "The Hopi Way", displayed the humor for which Frishberg is noted and was followed by a song written to music by the saxophonist Al Cohn, "Tenor For Two". "Do You Miss New York?", about and dedicated to transplanted New Yorkers living in southern California, had lyrics whose rhyming was predictable and not up to Frishberg's standard of cleverness. Other material included a swinging "Zoot Walks In", "Groovin' Myself", "Please Jack" and tribute songs to Jack Dempsey, Marilyn Monroe and a composer named Eastwood Lane(the name treated as a place rather than a person). All three of the tribute songs were bits of nostalgia as was a song entitled "I Want To Be A Sideman" which harkened back to the time of swing bands and jazz groups. Frishberg also included "Little Did I Dream", a ballad he wrote with Johnny Mandel and recently recorded by Tony Bennett.
Dave Frishberg doesn't advertise himself as a "singer". His vocal quality is that of a non-singer, but it fits his material. His piano style is simple and just right for his voice. He swung in a quiet way and pleased his fans.
The second half of the evening was all Blossom Dearie. Accompanied by Ray Kilday on bass and David Silliman on drums, this diminutive powerhouse established herself at the piano and held the house in the palm of her hand. Opening with "Give Him The Ooh La La", she followed with a swinging version of "Little Old Rhode Island", a seldom done piece of material. "I'm Shadowing You", written by Blossom Dearie and Johnny Mercer, was an up-tempo love song that was charmingly performed. "I Walk A Little Faster", by Carolyn Leigh and Cy Coleman, received a sensitive reading. The next two songs "I'm Hip" and "My Attorney Bernie" were written by Dave Frishberg are are ones for which Blossom is famous. The lyrics have a wry humor that Blossom interprets well and the songs fit her like a glove. Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top" was given a bluesy treatment, a refreshing change from its theatrical heritage. Another original, "Make Some Magic" was done as a bossa nova which featured some great rhythmical drumming by David Silliman. Blossom closed with "Peel Me A Grape",(another Dave Frishberg song that she has been doing for a long time). Her version of the tune is still the definitive one.
Blossom Dearie has a voice that has not changed with time. It still has the "little girl" innocent sound that contrasts interestingly with the sometimes provocative lyrics of the songs. She plays just enough piano, preferring to concentrate on her vocals. She was ably supported by Ray Kilday's bass which contributed tasty fills and by drummer David Silliman. The lady chooses her material wisely to fit her vocal styling and musical delivery and always entertains her devoted audience.
In addition to the above performers, special guest artists The Young Hoofers offered a collective and individual presentation of their tap dancing skills. Kudos to producer Jack Kleinsinger who put together this program. It was a unique offering that does not come our way every day in the week.