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In addition to their achievements in the jazz world, Bob Dorough and Dave Frishberg made an indelible mark on popular culture with Schoolhouse Rock, the beloved educational TV series from the 70s. Dorough served as musical director for the animated shorts and wrote many of the cherished songs. Frishberg, for his part, wrote "I’m Just a Bill." On VH-1’s recent "Top 100 Rock-n-Roll TV Moments," Schoolhouse Rock made it to number 45. Gen X pop stars sang its praises; En Vogue even hummed a few bars of "Conjunction Junction." Neither Dorough nor Frishberg were mentioned once during the segment.
Such indignities aside, the two continue to delight jazz audiences with their catchy singing and songwriting. Who’s On First is their recording debut as a duo, documenting a series of 1999 performances at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles. With two pianos, two voices, and nothing more, their show has something of the feel of cabaret or musical comedy act. Their voices are nasal and rough around the edges, almost mocking the conventions of professional singing. They open with an instrumental rendition of "Rockin’ In Rhythm," then ease into Frishberg’s "Who’s On First," which finds the two thinking out loud, hilariously, about who will lead off as the evening’s first solo act. "Are you the mesmerizer? Am I the appetizer?" Frishberg wins the coin toss, going on to perform the cheerily cynical "Lookin’ Good," the road rage anthem "Too Long in LA," and the heartbreaking ballad "You Are There." He concludes with a dejected lyric titled "The Underdog," the music for which was written by the late Al Cohn.
Dorough then rejoins Frishberg for the snappy bop vehicle "Where You At?" He continues on his own with "Health Food Nut," an ode to the fitness-obsessed zeitgeist; "Devil May Care," his most famous song; "Nothing Like You," the tune he sang with the Miles Davis Quintet on the Sorcerer album; and "Hong Kong Blues," a ditty by Hoagy Carmichael. To wrap up, Frishberg returns for the hysterical "I’m Hip" ("I even call my girlfriend ‘Man,’ I’m so hip!"), a new collaboration called "At the Saturday Dance," and the Schoolhouse Rock staple "Conjunction Junction."
Dorough and Frishberg’s act is good for a lot of laughs, but that’s not all there is to it. Along with their wit and sheer musical talent, they display a generosity of spirit that is truly heartwarming.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.