Quick — here’s a culture quiz for the hip among us. If you had to connect Ben Webster and Malcolm X with a third figure in the middle, which name would you guess?
of the ubiquitous None of the Above?
Yes, it’s my friend Mr. None . . . but the answer is – – – – Dave Frishberg.
“Dave Frishberg?” I can hear you saying (or I pretend I can hear it). Yes, when he was playing piano in Ben’s last New York band, and Dave impressed Malcolm X with his knowledge of baseball arcana. Now, everyone knows Frishberg as a wondrous pianist with quirky ways — a style that comes out of the Thirties with its own lopsided modernisms; a great accompanist; a dry, drawling singer of his own often hilarious and sometimes poignant songs. What you probably didn’t know is that Dave is a fine, poised, understated writer — of prose. I found this out on his website, www.davefrishberg.net., which has beautifully-written memories of Benny Goodman (of course), Scatman Crothers, Webster, Johnny Windhurst, Jimmy Rushing, Jimmy Rowles, Carmen McRae, Igor Stravinsky, Katharine Hepburn, Kenny Davern, George Wettling relieving himself, Ava Gardner, Johnny Mercer . . . and on. The site is mildly stagnant: the most recent entry is an elegy for pianist Ross Tompkins, which suggests that Dave has had other concerns. But it suggests, to steal from Lorenz Hart, that if you asked him, he could write a book. And an extraordinary book it would be, too.
Tell us another story, Dave, please.