Jessica Molaskey
Jessica Molaskey
It's a well-known fact that songwriters are often the best interpreters of their material, and one sees the truth of that statement as Dave Frishberg warbles his often hilariously quirky songs with the absolutely right, light, sly, wry touch in Do You Miss New York?, his new cabaret show with singer Jessica Molaskey, now at the Algonquin' Hotel's Oak Room. As for his partner-in-crime here, Molaskey --a nifty songwriter herself -- resonates to the material by way of her astringent, smoky, jazz-tinged voice.

While the show is as up-to-the-minute as the latest rant from Charlie Sheen, it's also a slam-bang trip back to Manhattan evenings when patrons enthusiastically crowded small clubs like the all-but-forgotten Upstairs at the Downstairs and Julius Monk's Plaza-9 to hear entertainers dispense casually sophisticated material with great style.

The evening kicks off with a comic tune called "Who's On First?" that tackles the question of whether Molaskey is supporting Frishberg through the breezy enterprise or whether he's supporting her. It's all in good fun, needless to say, and even includes a reference to the hoary if still hilarious Abbott and Costello routine.

Throughout his career, Frishberg has usually hewed to the sunny side of the beat, as shown in the amusing "Slappin' the Cakes," about having the moves put on him by an aggressive lady, and in "I Want to Be a Sideman," the title of which sincerely expresses his life-long wish. Also on the lighter side is Molaskey's coyly appealing rendition of "My Attorney Bernie," which Frishberg says is his most-requested ditty.

Occasionally, however, the show turns more serious, as in a not so subtle diatribe about pollution called "Brown River." In "Will You Die?" Frishberg and Molaskey play cynical reporters quizzing the suicide-happy Dorothy Parker, and then Molaskey lends genuine pathos to "Excuse Me for Living," a retort from the promiscuous poetess.

Most of what the pair perform is solely Frishberg's oeuvre, but there are a couple of exceptions. When he completes a first chorus to "I'm Hip," Molaskey responds with "I Won't Scat," a lively take on the Dorothy Fields-Jerome Kern standard "I Won't Dance." Later, they contemporize Johnny Mercer's "My New Celebrity is You" with clever, fast-paced lyrics that even include a reference to local fiddle wunderkind Aaron Weinstein and -- not too much of a surprise -- John Pizzarelli, Molaskey's equally talented husband.

As Frishberg writes in I'm Hip," "When it was hip to be hep, I was hep." Nowadays, count on both of these performers to be as hip and as hep as can be.