Dave Frishberg: The Underdog


The Underdog


Dave Frishberg (piano, vocals)


Lookin' Good (Concord Jazz 4998)

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Dave Frishberg (piano, vocals).

Composed by Dave Frishberg and Al Cohn


Recorded: Los Angeles, August 1989


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

“The Underdog” may be one of the most profound lyrics that Dave Frishberg has ever created. The song is about a gambler who bets on long-shots or underdogs. Yet Frishberg’s storyline also creates a fully-developed character, who himself could be called an underdog. As a result, we can feel empathy for this man without decrying his gambling addiction. To be sure, the gambler understands his problem, but against all odds, he has hope that he, like his favored underdog, will be a winner someday. How many pop songs—even the classics—cover that much emotional ground? On this recording, Frishberg sings the song in free time, so that the effect is both conversational and confessional. Frishberg’s spare, lonely solo piano only adds to the melancholy mood. The ending is a wry twist on an old cliché: Sooner or later, you know every underdog will have his day and while it’s not a big ending, that same glimmer of hope shines through. Underdog or not, this song is a real winner.

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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