March 26-28, 2020 | 17th Annual!
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About Sax To The Max
MICHAEL LINGTON – SILVER LINING
Growing up in Copenhagen, Michael Lington remembers the precise moment he decided he needed to move to America if he was going to seriously pursue a career in music. He was still a budding musician at the time, who loved several different genres: jazz, pop, R&B and more—as a young boy he’d even met the American swing legend Benny Goodman. But it wasn’t until he was on the verge of turning 20 that Lington—now recognized as one of the most creative and successful contemporary soul and jazz saxophonists in the world—made his fateful decision.
Immersing himself in his favorite music—David Sanborn, Michael Brecker, King Curtis, Hank Crawford, Cannonball Adderley and Grover Washington—Michael started out on clarinet but soon found his true calling, the saxophone. Already established in his homeland, he made the move to the U.S. and began to grab a foothold in the music industry there. Eventually, after much hard work, his place within the American and international music scene came to him naturally:
“I loved that contemporary sax was so versatile in all styles of music: funk, jazz, R&B, pop,” Lington says, but soul music hit him most directly. “It’s hard to describe why something in particular is meaningful to a person, but soul music spoke to me very early on in my life—it’s just a feeling and reaction I had when I would hear it.”
Michael Lington is releasing Silver Lining, his 10th solo album, the followup to 2016’s critically acclaimed Second Nature. Silver Lining features mostly original compositions by Lington and producer/co-arranger/keyboardist Barry Eastmond, as well as a pair of stunning, choice covers.
“This has been my favorite album to record,” says Lington. “With Silver Lining there was an overall confidence and clarity as to what I wanted to achieve, so I had more capacity to just let loose and have fun. We recorded most of it live so we could get that organic, special feel from all of the musicians being in the studio at the same time. “Whether we record at Sunset Sounds in L.A. or Royal Studio in Memphis, it’s all the same process,” he adds. “All of the musicians are in one room together, except for some of the special guests, who we recorded at different times for logistical reasons, although Barry and I were always present to make sure our vision was reached.”
Those guests include some of the top names in the business. In addition to Lington’s alto sax and Eastmond’s keys on all tracks, the participating musicians include Paul Jackson Jr. and Ray Parker Jr. on guitars, Freddie Washington and Alex Al sharing bass duties, Teddy Campbell contributing the drums, Lenny Castro on percussion, and a number of other musicians appearing on a track or two, including one of the original Funk Brothers, Jack Ashford. The horns are arranged by Lester Snell and Eastmond. “The musicians on the album are some of the best in the world—it is so inspiring to be surrounded by such talent,” says Lington. “It challenges me and makes me a better musician.”
Michael reserves special praise for Barry Eastmond, who has worked with Lington for some time and serves as a true collaborator on Silver Lining. “We originally met in New York when I was a special guest with Michael Bolton,” Lington says. “He produced Bolton some years ago and was hanging out backstage. I knew about Barry’s work with Billy Ocean, Anita Baker and Jonathan Butler so I was excited when he came up to me and told me he was a fan of my music and would love to work together. Shortly thereafter we started writing and came up with the concept of doing more soul-based, live-feeling recordings. We soon went into the studio and made my Soul Appeal album. Silver Lining is our third album together. He has been a very important component in every aspect, including being the barometer for how to make an album feel really good.” Silver Lining begins with “City Life,” one of three consecutives Eastmond/Lington compositions at the top of the track list. It features guitar from the legendary Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. “Three years ago,” Lington recalls, “Dave and I were both performing at a show at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and prior to the show he asked me if I would join him on a song during his set. I was very flattered as I was a big fan of him and Eurythmics. We became instant friends and have played and written together many times since then. When I asked him if he would play on my new album, he said absolutely.”
Following the next two originals, “Break the Ice” and “Déjà Vu,” arrives the first interpretative piece on Silver Lining, Curtis Mayfield’s classic, timeless ballad “People Get Ready,” which the late R&B icon recorded with the Impressions in 1965. To sing the song, Lington recruited 2017 Grammy winner William Bell, himself a soul legend who recorded for Memphis’ Stax Records back in its heyday. “I knew I wanted to record it on this album. I just wasn’t sure who was going to sing it until I met William Bell at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame,” Lington says. “I was asked to induct the great [jazz musician] Charles Lloyd and William was getting inducted himself. When I heard him sing that night I knew he was the one for that song…and he agreed to do it!”
Of the title track to Silver Lining, Lington says, “I feel in life you have to always find the silver lining. Most times things don’t turn out the way you think they will, but somehow they always work out, many times for the better. This song I love because it reminds me of the old CTI Records [jazz label] days. That music is my core and makes an emotional connection with me and most lovers of early soul-jazz. The title ‘Silver Lining’ just fits this song.”
Two more originals, “Can’t Say Goodbye” and “M-Funk,” follow, the latter featuring guitarist, singer-songwriter and record producer extraordinaire Ray Parker Jr. “Ray is one of my best friends and we have worked together for many years,” says Lington. “He must have played on at least five of my albums. He always surprises me with his creativity; his approach to the guitar is like no one else. Who are you gonna call when you need something unique? Ray Parker Jr!”
The original “Swingin’ on Main Street” precedes “So Very Hard to Go,” the soul classic by Tower of Power. Guest Dorian Holley provides the tour de force vocal. “I wanted to record it for this album but make it more like an intimate Al Green record than a horn band record,” says Lington. “Dorian was just supposed to help us out with a guide vocal, but we loved his performance so much that we kept it for the record.”
The final two tracks, “Jaywalking” (featuring Paul Jackson Jr. on guitar) and “Straight to the Top,” are further originals, closing out the set in style. For Lington, Silver Lining is both a culmination of all the musical places he has been and a taste of where he’s headed. He’s always seeking to evolve.
“It’s been 20 years since my first album and I feel I’m just getting started,” he says. “Yes, I have had many wins along the way, including radio success, and my new album is sincerely my favorite. I think that’s because I have come into myself and am comfortable in who I am as an artist, but honestly, I don’t think a lot about success. I’m more interested in what’s happening next, what is my next journey or chapter.”
He’s also learned much about business along the way, which led him and his business partner, Roy McClurg, to launch his own record label, Copenhagen Music, in 2014. Lington is also an entrepreneur outside of music, operating his own wine and cigar companies. He continues to tour, performing as many as 80 concerts per year, and has played in more than 40 countries, working many of the world’s most prestigious venues. He’s even performed for a U.S. President.
This year, Lington will tour behind Silver Lining, hitting the road with his band and reuniting with an old friend, singer Kenny Lattimore.
“My music has changed a bit over the years but now it’s uptempo soul, funk and R&B,” he says. “Basically, I try to entertain people with feel-good music and give them a fun time.”
In the 19 years since Paul Taylor first got On The Horn with his hit debut album, he’s enjoyed an extraordinary journey in the contemporary urban jazz world. The key to the charismatic saxophonist’s success? Beyond those instantly identifiable sax tones, infectious melodies, cutting edge production, and dynamic live performances, it’s one thing: Tenacity–the perfect title for his latest recording on Peak Records (and 10th overall).
From the start of his recording career, Taylor has created his ever cool deeply soulful and rhythmic trip-hop influenced sound by working with some of urban jazz and R&B’s top producers, including Rex Rideout, Barry J. Eastmond and The Heavyweights. But one of the most important architects of the saxman’s core flow has been Dino Esposito, who helped Taylor establish his vibe with On The Horn and Pleasure Seeker (1997), and has played a powerful role in the saxophonist’s evolution by helming tracks on his subsequent recordings Undercover (2000), his Peak Records debut Hypnotic (2001), Nightlife (2005) and Prime Time (2011).
Tenacity marks the first time ever that Taylor has recorded an entire project with a single producer – and his longtime friendship and incredible chemistry with Esposito made him the perfect choice for the varied rhythms and progressive sonics that the saxophonist wanted. “I’ve always had this special bond with Dino and it was really exciting to focus on doing an entire project with my great friend, rather than just a few tracks here and there like in the past,” says Taylor. “I’m always trying to grow as an artist, so there were ideas going all the time as we developed these tracks,” he adds. “I definitely have an established sound, so the key was having an open mind and being honest when we hit on a certain vibe, groove or lick I had done before – and taking the tune in another direction. “
Taylor has a long history of bringing his favorite urban jazz artists to the mix, and he continues that inspiring tradition by inviting keyboardist Jonathan Fritzen to add his lush piano harmonies to the whimsical, easy flowing soprano-driven opening track “Supernova” – which pairs Taylor’s horn with some snazzy “vocalese.” He textures four alto sax tracks behind a colorful lead melody to create the spirited optimism that rolls through the mid-tempo funk of the title track, then shifts from a balmy, tropical feeling to a more urban, trip-hop pocket on the rhythmically diverse “Awakening.” Taylor says, “This one is magical in that it has three distinct melodic parts.”“Spur of the Moment” isn’t just a clever title – it actually conveys the emotion of Taylor’s spontaneous alto lines and they burst forth and dance over a thick, edgy funk-rock groove and dynamic horn texturing. He named “Luxe,” featuring special guest Jeff Lorber on electric piano and guitar, for the luxurious ambiences surrounding his easy swaying soprano, while the tenor-led “Peace of Mind” taps into a coolly rhythmic Paul Hardcastle style as it moves towards a playful, clapping crunch-funk groove behind a swirl of sax and wordless vocals. Esposito turned Taylor onto the recent alternative R&B hit “Wicked Games” by Canadian artist The Weeknd, and he immediately loved it. The saxophonist’s version features a thoughtful alto melody over a hypnotic piano riff and gentle percussion, then a trippy distant “banging” sound; it also features whispery computer generated vocals.
Taylor envisions “Open Road” as the album’s perfect “road trip with a friend, with no traffic and the horizon straight ahead tune:” his alto romps easily over Esposito’s moody old school keyboard sounds, hypnotic grooves and bright brass flourishes. Promising “More To Come,” Taylor’s gentle soprano winds through a serpentine melody and a double time groove that creates a true club flavor a la the popular Swedish DJ/producer Avicii. Tenacity wraps with Taylor looking out over the “Empire” he’s created, forging a unique tension between his alto lead and backing spirited horn textures with Esposito’s dark and moody piano textures. “It’s a tune that makes you think about things,” says Taylor, “looking out at everything you’ve done and savoring the moment.”
Long a mainstay among the most popular and elite artists, Taylor has been on one of the most exhilarating upswings of his career over the past seven years, starting with Ladies’ Choice (2007), which marked his first ever #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz. “Burnin’,” the title track from his 2009 album, hit #1 on the airplay charts, and “Push To Start” from Prime Time (2011), hit the pole position on the Smooth Jazz Songs chart. Prime Time further lived up to its colorful name by reaching the Top Ten on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart.
Over the past few years, Taylor has also been part of two of the genre’s biggest summer tours, Gentlemen of the Night (with Marion Meadows and Warren Hill) and Sax and the City (with Meadows and Vincent Ingala). In December 2012, the longtime basketball enthusiast achieved another longtime dream, performing the National Anthem in Madison Square Garden at a New York Knicks game; their coach Mike Woodson is a longtime fan.
Though the Denver native has lived and worked primarily in Las Vegas since graduating as a music performance major from UNLV, the proximity of his adopted hometown to Los Angeles gave him many opportunities to vibe with R&B and contemporary jazz producers and artists, including Esposito, whom he first met in the late 80s. Taylor played one of Esposito’s sessions at Jeff Lorber’s home studio; a few years later, in 1994, the keyboardist remembered Taylor and asked him to play with him at the Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival.
Another popular keyboard player, Keiko Matsui, and her producer/husband Kazu liked Taylor’s charismatic performance and soon offered him an audition with their band. He recorded and toured with the Matsuis for two years (appearing on Sapphire and Dream Walk), and Kazu Matsui eventually co-produced On The Horn, which spawned the #1 radio hit “Till We Meet Again.” Taylor’s mix of funk and sensuality were a natural fit for the emerging urban jazz genre, and he soon became one of its core artists. Although Taylor has since been one of the genre’s most popular live attractions as a solo artist, he eagerly accepted Russ Freeman’s invitation to tour with The Rippingtons as a special guest artist in 2000—the year he released his third album Undercover–after Jeff Kashiwa left the group. He later toured as a featured performer with the all-star “Groovin’ For Grover” lineup (including Lorber, Richard Elliot and Gerald Albright) and performed and made his acting debut on the legendary ABC soap opera “One Life To Live.”
With the 20th anniversary of his recording debut coming up next year, Taylor remains a fresh and vital, forward thinking force in contemporary urban jazz. Talent and vision are a given, but sometimes those things fade. It’s his Tenacity that’s made the difference.
One of the fastest emerging contemporary jazz recording artists in recent history, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, Vincent Ingala has blasted into an exciting stratosphere of his own making since his 2010 critically acclaimed debut album, ‘North End Soul.’ Still in his twenties, the charismatic saxophonist has been named Billboard Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year in 2012, Sirius XM Watercolors Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2013, and his music is consistently found atop the most noteworthy music charts in the world, including four number one hits on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Chart, and ten singles in the Billboard Smooth Jazz Top 10. As much of an entertainer as he is a musician, the Yamaha Performing Artist has been wowing live audiences as a regular on the popular smooth jazz festival and cruise circuit for several years. His fun-loving stage presence, combined with an obvious passion for playing, elevates the crowd to an exciting frenzy! An “old soul,” as he’s often referred to, Vincent possesses a deep knowledge and appreciation for all genres of music. His versatility on multiple instruments makes him sought after both live, and as a producer in the studio. His latest effort and fifth studio album, 2018’s ‘Personal Touch,’ finds Vincent playing every instrument throughout the entire album, along with eight original compositions, and the reimagining of two 80’s R&B classics from Alexander O’ Neil and Billy Ocean. ‘Personal Touch’ is the breath of fresh air that long time smooth jazz fans have been craving. Indeed, it is arguably Vincent’s most complete album to date and affirms the meteoric progress he has made since 2010. This coast-to-coast sensation continues to bring a playful spirit, old soul, and youthful enthusiasm to contemporary jazz, with a real sense for what music fans are seeking, from recordings to live performances.