Bob Dorough/Dave Frishberg – Who’s On First ?

Who’s On First ?
Bob Dorough/Dave Frishberg
(Blue Note – 2000)
by Mark Ruffin

The slices of wit served up at L.A.’s Jazz Bakery in November of last year was extremely sharp as two of jazz’ funniest lyricists, to quote the hilarious title track, “were finally booked in tandem.” While both have seriously slick, but distinct piano playing styles, their ultra-cool, very witty writing style is quite similar. They’re so good together that their most famous collaboration could only be called “I’m Hip.” Lately, though, the 73 year-old Dorough has been taking up more serious issues in his new songs, like “HealthFood Nut,”thus, in his set on this 17 track date, Frishberg has more laughs per minute.

Ten years younger, Frishberg is still out to make people think and chuckle through his Woody Allen-like persona. His “Too Long In L.A.,” is a funny as most movies being made in Tinsletown, and when he says “dig on this homey,” and impersonates Arthur Prycsock in the middle of “I’m Hip,” one wonders whether the man missed his calling as a stand-up. He does get serious with a moving Al Cohn line that he wrote lyrics to, called “The Underdog,” but even that is sandwiched between a Frank Sinatra joke about the tune. Dorough’s set is worthy if only that it supplies fresh new readings of his classic tunes like “Devil May Care,” and “Nothing Like You,” which Dorough first recorded with Miles Davis and Gil Evans, and believe it or not, “Conjunction Junction,” from the ageless Saturday morning ABC-TV series, “Schoolhouse Rock,” which has of course etched Dorough’s Arkansas twang into the minds of millions of adults of all ages.

Fittingly, Dorough does Hoagy Carmichael’s most famous visual song, “Hong Kong Blues.” Most people who know the song also know the scene in the famous Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall movie “Key Largo,” where Hoagy sings it. That’s precisely the image Dorough wants to project. The tracks that they play and sing on together are just priceless, in particular the title track, which cleverly sets up the answer to the question, but in a Abbott & Costello roundabout way. It really didn’t matter who was on first because, throughout this record, they’re both on.