With his ultra-sleek look, hip, edgy “now” attitude and charm and charisma to burn, Michael Lington has defined the contemporary urban jazz experience. Since the late 90s, he’s scored hit after Top Ten hit while seducing fans with passionate performances that turn his sax into a wild celebration of love and life. Fresh off the success of A Song For You, his dynamic, critically acclaimed 2006 collection of 70s pop covers featuring lush arrangements and a full orchestra, the Copenhagen native—who became an official citizen of the U.S. on March 21, 18 years after emigrating from Denmark—gets back to his sensual funk roots, turning up the Heatbig time on his highly anticipated Nu Groove debut.
Beyond his trademark mix of cool and explosive instrumentals, the Copenhagen native is crossing over into the mainstream pop/adult contemporary realm with two key vocal collaborations: “That’s When You Save Me,” an original track penned by hot young songwriter Claude Kelly (Leona Lewis) that Lington performs with soul legend Aaron Neville, and a rock-edged twist on Gerry Rafferty’s classic “Baker Street” with former American Idol finalist (and Grammy nominated songwriter) Ace Young. Lington hooked up with Young through Nu Groove A&R exec Pete Ganbarg, who has worked with music industry mogul Clive Davis on such projects as Santana’s Supernatural, Kenny G’s At Last…The Duets, and Daughtry’s debut album.
Lington co-produced seven of the tracks with legendary session keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, whose credits range from Quincy Jones’ The Dude and Michael Jackson’s Thriller to Herbie Hancock’s Possibilities and Chris Botti’s To Love Again. Three other cuts are helmed by Keith Olsen, who’s vibed with everyone from Pat Benatar and Whitesnake to Fleetwood Mac. Lington wrote the high energy “Shout About Ya” with the Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe nominated team of Allan Rich and Jud Friedman, and penned three songs with hitmakers Michael and Danny Sembello: the uptempo and summery (think: fun in the sun in South Beach) “Ocean Drive,” the beautiful ballad “Nostalgia”; and the breezy, Brazilian flavored “Chuva,” which means “rain” in Portuguese. Michael Sembello travels to Brazil all the time and is good friends with the grandson of legendary composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. The composition of “Chuva” began on the vintage piano where the elder Jobim composed his classic “The Girl From Ipanema.”
“Chuva” features an authentic Rio touch by popular guitarist Torcuato Mariano, who was born in Buenos Aires but raised in Brazil. Other veteran musicians populating the sensuality and grooves on Heat are keyboardist Randy Waldman (who produced A Song For You), guitarists Michael Thompson and Kim Pierce, bassists Neil Stubenhaus and Nathan East and drummers Teddy Campbell and Vinnie Colauita. Lington also gives exposure to two up and coming female vocalists, U.K. born Keely Hawkes (whose voice graces “Shout About Ya”) and Nashville based Janey Clewer.
Lington echoes my exact sentiment about his new recording (easily one of the best genre albums of the year) when he says, “I feel like I’ve let loose like never before, almost as if I was onstage doing a show when I was recording in the studio.” It’s that fresh and freewheeling, and after that low key trip down memory lane on A Song For You, he’s back to the groove—so put it on and turn up the Heat!