[JPL] Music Review | Jessica Molaskey and Dave Frishberg

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Fri Oct 20 17:08:58 EDT 2006

October 19, 2006
Music Review | Jessica Molaskey and Dave Frishberg
Her Voice, His Tender, Cruel Songs 
As a cynical pop commentator on the games people play,
there is no more ferocious wit than the jazz
songwriter Dave Frishberg, who is making a rare New
York appearance at Feinstein’s at the Regency with the
singer Jessica Molaskey. His most famous song, “My
Attorney Bernie,” is a scathing portrait of a
high-powered lawyer by a client who is simultaneously
horrified and tickled by the legal eagle’s ploys and
affectations. The song’s funniest punch line:

He buys wine from the rare imported rack
That’s ’cause Bernie is a purist, not your polyester
Bernie waves the glass around a while and takes a sip
and always sends it back

Singing with Mr. Frishberg at the piano at Tuesday’s
opening night (the show runs through Oct. 28), Ms.
Molaskey flavored this song with a healthy pinch of
lemon zest. Like Mr. Frishberg, she has the gift of
being jazzy and deep at the same time. 

Mr. Frishberg plays the piano the way he writes
lyrics, with a sharp edge. Notes are never wasted. His
is a lean, aggressive style that avoids flowery
embellishment. And when he sings in his
characteristically sarcastic tone, his voice and piano
create the musical equivalent of the perfect martini:
a lethal concoction that’s extra-dry and made with

The show, “Quality Time,” whose title is taken from a
wonderful Frishberg song the pair didn’t perform on
Tuesday, may be the smartest cabaret show you’ll see
all year. The two take turns singing. Mr. Frishberg
growls “I’m Hip,” the portrait of a poseur he wrote
with Bob Dorough, and Ms. Molaskey follows with “I
Won’t Scat,” a Frishberg spoof of “I Won’t Dance.” 

The show’s most amusing moment, “Can’t Take You
Nowhere,” is a scornful dismissal of an acquaintance
who is a social embarrassment: “You stagger, you sag,
you’re half in the bag, one glass of beer and you’re a
total drag.” As sung by Ms. Molaskey, it had me
laughing aloud.

Beneath the misanthropy, there is a profoundly tender
side to Mr. Frishberg’s songwriting. “Heart’s Desire,”
written to his children, with music by Alan Broadbent,
is to my mind, one of the two greatest American pop
songs of the last 20 years (the other being Adam
Guettel’s “How Glory Goes,” from “Floyd Collins”), and
Ms. Molaskey’s brisk but insightful interpretation did
it proud. 

It could be described as a contemporary answer to
“When You Wish Upon a Star,” pared of sentimentality
but not love. A parent imparting wisdom to a child
declares, “If you should decide to seek your special
dream, your heart’s desire/ Nothing you can ever do
will bring more joy to you,” then cautions: 

But if you seek your heart’s desire, your heart may
That’s the risk your dreams require, the chance you
The choice you make.

Expressions of devotion and truthfulness rarely
coincide in popular songs. Here they do.


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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