WYSO's 2020 Summertime Selections: Duante Beddingfield
As we pass by Labor Day this year, the sunshine and temperatures remind us that there's still a few summer days left to go. We asked our WYSO music hosts about some of their favorite songs and albums for that summer mood, and today we hear from Equinox's Duante Beddingfield.
Well, another quarter's gone by and the world isn't any less weird than it was this spring, so once again, music has been more of a coping mechanism than maybe ever for me. From one of the year's finest straight-ahead jazz offerings to obscure Colombian retro pop, here's what's been keeping me company on sweaty, sleepless nights and sweltering afternoons manning the grill. As we stare down the barrel at the end of yet another chapter in this hopefully one-of-a-kind year, I hope perhaps something from this list can bring some joy to you as well.
Connie Han - Iron Starlet (2020)
One of 2020's most enjoyable jazz releases thus far, pianist Han's third album as a leader finds her among a rock solid trio with Ivan Taylor on bass and producer Bill Wysaske on drums, with assistance from trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and saxophonist Walter Smith III. When the horns really open up, they threaten to steal the show, but the whole crew works together in lockstep, creating rock-solid swing that's more to be enjoyed than to challenge - and there's nothing wrong with that at all. Highlights include the Wayne Shorter-esque "For the O.G." and "Hello to the Wind," and Han evoking a sort of Brad Mehldau feel on the old standard "Detour Ahead."
Elia y Elizabeth - La Onde de Elia y Elizabeth (2014 rerelease)
Elia and Elizabeth Fleta are an odd little footnote in deep-dive music history. The Colombian granddaughters of a famed Spanish tenor, they showed an early aptitude for music and cut two successful albums during their late teens, in 1972 and '73, then abruptly left the business forever to become teachers (and, in Elia's case, also a nun), and vanished into anonymity. In 2014, the best tracks from those two records were packaged and released as La Onda de Elia y Elizabeth, and it's an absolute gem. No matter that it's all in Spanish; their radio-friendly, soft pop from the end of the psychedelic era instantly feels familiar, drawing on influences of the day such as The Beatles, Neil Young, The Mamas and the Papas, and Antonio Carlos Jobim to form their sound, but perhaps none more than Herb Alpert and especially mid-to-late '60s Sergio Mendes. Their two young voices singing very close harmony recalls Mendes' legendary Brasil '65 and '66 records, their gentle solo choruses bring to mind Astrud Gilberto's breezy bossa nova touch, and the bright, peppy, staccato horns sound like Alpert's Tijuana Brass is backing them. There's even a cover of Paul Revere and the Raiders' "Kicks" (done here as "Pesadilla"). Even if you don't know Spanish, you'll quickly find yourself singing along with their relentlessly catchy hooks.
This is some of the greatest summertime music I've ever heard, perfect for a splashy pool party, easy laughter over backyard cocktails, or a road trip with friends. It's pure sonic sunshine, folks, right up there with the best of The Beach Boys.
Try not to smile. I dare you.
Antonio Carlos Jobim - Wave (1967)
After the Elia y Elizabeth album ends, everyone's a few drinks in, and your afternoon backyard adventures shift into an evening chill session, make a natural transition with this mood masterpiece from the king of bossa nova. You can practically hear cocktails being poured while taking in this ultra-cool set of originals. Intimate yet playful, with brilliant arranging by Claus Ogerman that uses a surprisingly unobtrusive orchestra to subtly color the charts, this is the sound of carefree relaxation. The addictive title track and "Triste" quickly became standards, but deep cuts like "The Red Blouse," "Mojave," and the deeply soulful "Lamento" have vibe for days and days. Over many years, this is one of those albums I come back to again and again when the weather feels perfect and I want to relax. Sadly, it clocks in at barely a half-hour runtime, so expect to hit repeat once or twice...
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - The Complete Ella & Louis On Verve (1997)
If jazz had a Mount Rushmore, there's no doubt the faces of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald would be on it. Two of the genre's most foundational and prolific artists during its formative years and golden age, they were lifelong friends with great respect for each other's talents and recorded three albums together on the Verve label between 1956 and 1958. In 1997, the year after Ella's passing, the label put all of those together, along with two live tracks from the Hollywood Bowl, on a special three-disc set, and there's not a dull or wasted track.
Ella and Louis and its follow-up, Ella and Louis Again, are 24 karat classics, with delightful duets like "Can't We Be Friends," "Moonlight in Vermont," "Tenderly," "Autumn in New York," and an especially joyful "Stompin' at the Savoy." And then there's Porgy and Bess, the jewel in the crown. Ira Gershwin once famously said, "I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them." How enraptured he must have been to hear her and Pops take on the classic jazz opera. I couldn't begin to guess how many thousands of times I've been through their thrilling version of "Summertime," yet the hair on my arms still pricks up every time. It sizzles with a kind of indescribable magic that must be heard.
It's hard to find a collection of tracks more charming than this - and if you're streaming the collection, it runs nearly four hours, making it a great companion for home or office work or, as I've found, as a soundtrack for cooking and enjoying a special meal and some nice wine with people you care about. It's wonderful dinner music.
Herbie Hancock - The New Standard (1996)
Yet another home run from the Verve label is this fun excursion, Herbie's 40th album, where he and an all-star band (Michael Brecker on sax, John Scofield on guitar, Dave Holland on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and Don Alias on percussion) go all in on modern pop and rock tunes by everyone from Steely Dan ("Your Gold Teeth II") and Sade ("Love Is Stronger Than Pride") to Simon and Garfunkel ("Scarborough Fair") to Nirvana (Kurt Cobain's "All Apologies"). Highlights include a pensive "Mercy Street," a hellaciously grooving cover of Prince's "Thieves in the Temple," a gorgeously spare reading of Babyface's "When Can I See You, and the album's opener, a blistering post-bop take on The Eagles' "New York Minute" that's as good as anything Herbie put out in the '60s.
The album feels so fresh, it's hard to believe it's almost 25 years old and came out when I was in sixth grade. The only thing freezing it in time is that all the songs are from pre-1996. Oh, Herbie, whyyyyyyyy hasn't this continued as a multi-volume series?
Eric Gale - The Essential Eric Gale (2017)
Okay, so I have a confession: I believe I was born a few decades too late, and that in my previous life, I was born in the mid to late 1950s and lived in New York City. So, for years, I've had an elaborate fantasy life where it's the late '70s or early '80s and I have a walk-up apartment in Hell's Kitchen that isn't special at all except that I have good art on the walls, I cook great food, I have an amazing record collection, and several nights a week I have parties where a wild cross-section of arts and cultural figures enthusiastically congregate and play LPs all night long.
Ridiculous, right? I am obsessed with the New York City that existed from the late '60s through the late '80s, a New York that 100% does not exist anymore, and hasn't for a very long time; a chapter of space and time I've never experienced and can be 100% certain I never will experience, no matter how long I live. And, for some reason, ever since I was a very small child, the sound of late '70s/early '80s New York has been exemplified for me by - wait for it - the guitar solo from Bob James' "Angela," the theme he wrote for the gritty sitcom Taxi and played in full on his 1978 Touchdown album. Even as a kid, I'd rewind that solo over and over, and I still do it a few times a week as an adult.
Then, one day, I heard an album from the same period by someone else, and I felt so certain I recognized the style of that guitarist. And then I felt like I was hearing it on other things, all the time. Well, I finally looked him up recently, and it turned out to be the late Eric Gale. And I was right - in his peak years, he was everywhere. He's the iconic guitar solo on Grover Washington, Jr.'s "Mister Magic." He was on Clark Terry's "Mumbles," Benny Golson's whole Tune In/Turn On album, Hank Crawford's cover of "Soul Serenade," Quincy's cover of "Killer Joe," Grover's Inner City Blues album, Joe Cocker's cover of "A Song For You," Carly Simon and Michael McDonald's duet on "You Belong to Me" (and the whole damn Boys in the Trees album), Michael Franks' One Bad Habit, MJ's "The Way You Make Me Feel."
Not to be confused with still-living blues-rock guitarist Eric Gales - this guy, Eric Gale (no S) - that bad SOB was the electric guitar on Stanley Turrentine's "Don't Mess With Mr. T," Blood Sweat and Tears' "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know," the ENTIRE Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway album, AND Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl!"
He recorded only a handful of instrumental albums as a leader, but they have brought me so much comfort during this strange, lonely summer, and they are distilled here on this best-of compilation. His tangy, economical funk, steeped in Southern blues, is on full display in tracks like "East End, West End," "She Is My Lady," "Multiplication," and a slow groove reggae cover of Hall and Oates' "Sara Smile."
In my fantasy life, these are the kinds of records my friends and I excavate from crates to spin for each other while sitting on the living room floor at 4 a.m. after another great party. It's a vibe.
Michael Franks - One Bad Habit (1980)
One of the ultimate examples of that exact vibe I described, by one of that era's premier late-night music makers and wittiest songwriters. Eric Gale's electrified guitar is the very first thing you hear at the top of the lead track, the subversively sexy "Baseball," and you know right away you're in good hands. The proceedings just get better and better, cresting with the perfect, super jazzy title track marrying an irresistible Franks chorus, some Billy May-style slurping saxophones, and some of Gale's most crisp, impeccable guitar work. His Southern-juke-joint-blues-meets-Manhattan-cool-funk style is just the icing on the cake - Franks’ airy, wry delivery is unlike any other singer except maybe Bob Dorough.
And then there's that closing track...
Look at him, he dials the number
Lucky Jim, he's so misunder-
So he slams it down
And he tells himself he’s happy...
This cut tells a timeless, around-the-town tale about the lies we stage for ourselves so we can cope with the little everyday traumas that gradually build failed adult lives.
But the thing I love most about it is how much it is of its time, sonically. It’s from that distinct era of about five or so years between the late 1970s and very early 1980s where country and mainstream pop and R&B and lite FM/“adult contemporary” all sort of melded together and traded back and forth and you could hear the sound of each in so many songs on the charts. The oddly right lounge funk of The Captain and Tennille, the hood-adjacent bounce of “9 to 5,” the southern twang of Bobby Caldwell’s guitar licks on “My Flame,” Patti Labelle’s tart Opry-esque take on Peter Allen’s “I Don’t Go Shopping,” Carly Simon and Michael McDonald slow-groovin' on “You Belong to Me” with somehow the same kind of infectious head nodding found on “Islands in the Stream,” funk captain Lionel Richie writing the ultimate country ballad and multi crossover megahit in Kenny Rogers' “Lady”...you can listen to them all right alongside this song and tell they came out of an odd and short and special time in American music history that never happened again, and I think that is just SO damn cool.
Franks could, especially for the time, skate very close to the edge of lewdness with his lyrics but got away with it by surrounding them with elegance and delivering in a flip manner, but the second verse of this song is downright shocking for the clear picture it paints:
She’s got a date with Dr. Gizmo
She's got the pain for which there is no
She's a soloist
...And she tells herself she’s happy
DAMN, dude!! Hoo!!! And delivered in barely a whisper, like it’s nothing. The first time I heard this I had to rewind it three times to make sure I heard it right the first time. There’s so much to unpack here. Grown folks music. Enjoy.
Listen to Duante every Monday night from 8-11 PM on Equinox.
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