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"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Michael Lington

michael lingtonSmitty:  Well, I’m always excited to welcome back one of the great sax players in the business and a good friend. He’s got some seriously cool saxabilities and he’s about to release a great new record called A Song For You. It’s a great follow-up from his last hit record, Stay With Me, and I must say this record is one where he’s breaking some new ground and it’s a fantastic project. You’ve got to hear this one. He’s got some great tunes on here and I can’t say enough about this great record. Please welcome the great sax cat Mr. Michael Lington.  Michael, how you doing, brother?

Michael Lington (ML):  I’m terrific and I’m so glad you’re calling it a record because I still call them records.

Smitty:  Yeah man.

ML:  People keep on correcting me, but it’s folks like you that back up what I… (Laughs.)  I thought all the way that it’s okay to call it a record.

Smitty:  Yeah, man, absolutely.

ML:  Yeah. Plus it kinda has that record feel to it, right?

Smitty:  Exactly, yeah.

ML:  I mean, it is almost like a step 30 years ago, you know what I mean?  It’s like back into the future 30 years ago and it has that record quality. That was sort of the whole purpose of this album, was to sort of recapture what, in my opinion, we have gotten a little bit away from where an album consists of not one single and then 10 fillers, but basically 11 great songs.  Each has its own personality and you pay just as much attention to each and every single song and then go in and record them live with the greatest musicians in the world and having them arranged. You know what I mean?

Smitty:  Yes.

ML:  Picking songs that people can relate to, have an emotional connection to, with great melodies, all of that good stuff.

Smitty:  Yeah, and I totally connected.  I mean, I was totally digging it from the first song on the record because it’s got such a feel to where it sort of pulls you in. It’s one of those records that you just put it on, you don’t have to skip through, it’s one of those records where you just let it play.

ML:  Yes.

Smitty:  And it’s a great record to chill with too.

ML:  Yeah, well, it’s interesting for me to hear how other people perceive it because there’s a lot of things that I don’t realize at the time on how this affects people. I can only go with my gut, I can only go with what turns me on. And I believe that I’m not that different than most other folks. They wanna be moved by music. They don’t want musical wallpaper. You wanna feel like you’re a part of it, that you’re feeling something when you hear it. And that was one of the things that I was paying so much attention to, to pick songs that are really emotionally valuable, and also in my playing I tried to really focus and communicate to my audience, and Dave Koz was a big help in this where one of the things he said from the beginning, he said “Remember this:  you’ve got a full orchestra, you’ve got the best musicians, you’ve got the greatest arranger.  I mean, you can’t do anything better than that.  I mean, you could play one note and it’ll still sound great.”

Smitty:  (Laughs.)  Yeah.

ML:  “But let’s not forget, still, let’s not get lost in all this lushness. Still remember that at the end of the day it comes down to you, your instrument, and the audience.  You have to tell a story, I have to believe it.”

Smitty:  He’s right.

ML: I couldn’t agree more, and so that was some of the things that with that in mind I’d go in and record, knowing that that’s the type of impact you need to have.

Smitty:  Yeah, and I think you did.  I think you grabbed it spot on because you said something about music being something that you feel.

ML:  Right.

Smitty:  And I’ve said for so long that music is not only for the ears, but it’s for the heart.

ML:  Oh, it’s mostly for the heart.

Smitty:  Yeah, you’ve got to feel it, you know?

ML:  Yes, yeah.  And if you noticed, there are actually no harmonies on the record.  I’m kinda known for having those big pop choruses with 13 saxes coming in and I’m playing harmony with myself.

Smitty: Yeah.

ML:  Not one.  Just me.  Pure. Did you notice?

Smitty:  I noticed it right away. I said okay…

ML:  Just me and my horn. That’s it.

Smitty:  Yep, I said this is a Michael Lington record!  (Laughs.)

ML:  Right.

Smitty:  Well, I love some of the titles on here. Talk to me a little bit about some of the cats in the band before we get into the music.

ML:  Okay.  Well, yes.  Well, let me put it to you this way:  I’m a dreamer. I’m a big believer in dreaming and going for your dreams…this one person told me a long time ago that if you think of this, in the universe…I’m not gonna get heavy on you.

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

ML:  But in the universe, in what we know as the world, there’s nothing here that basically you can’t have. Everything is here. It’s just a matter of go on and get it.

Smitty:  Yep.

ML:  It’s already here.  Everything is created that you want, right?

Smitty:  Yep.

ML:  All the accolades, you just have to earn them; all the money, whatever you want out of this world is already here, so it’s now just for you to go and find it. And with that in mind, I said okay, I’m gonna put together a dream band. You know, like if I could pick anybody in the whole world regardless of where they live on the earth and wherever, and that’s where I started, thinking that if I got one of those, I would be in great shape, right?

Smitty:  Yeah.

ML:  Okay.  They all came. My dream band is who is on my record. And I had to pinch myself during every single song when I’m sitting recording with these folks, going “Wait a minute.  I know why they’re here.  They’re here earning a paycheck, but what the heck am I doing here?  I’m just a cat from Copenhagen, came over here with a saxophone and a suitcase and a big dream, and now I’m sitting here with people that I would sit and look at albums, my favorite albums, 25 years ago, of all these musicians and they’re here in the studio recording with me now.”  I mean, it is such a surreal feeling, but it also is such an intense feeling of accomplishment and a sort of pat on the back saying “You know what?  You took chances, you did it, and it worked out okay.”

Smitty:  Absolutely.

ML:  But anyways, talking about who it is, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Dean Parks on guitar, Randy Waldman on keyboards, Brian Bromberg on upright bass, and Luis Conte on percussion, okay?  You can’t do any better than that. And it was great, we went in and it was all arranged, but the reality is with such great musicians that have so much experience, every single person added to this record.

Smitty:  Absolutely.

ML: They came in and they contributed and they put their thing on it, and we had the top session orchestra of Los Angeles who does all the film music. I mean, the “A” session players, the people doing the Warner Brothers soundtracks, the big stuff, and that is who is on my record and it’s pretty unbelievable.

Smitty:  Yeah, absolutely.

ML:  (Laughs.)  But I love it.

Smitty:  Yeah.  And, now, talk about the first single for radio.

ML:  You know, on this particular record, knowing what I just told you as far as paying as much attention to each song?

Smitty:  Yeah.

ML:  I was not a part of that at all, not that I really ever am, but it was like, for me, I always have my own favorites.

Smitty:  Yeah.

ML:  And then you let the record company and the people doing that type of single selection do their job, but with this record they could’ve pretty much picked anything and it really didn’t matter to me, so at that point it’s just a matter of what, I guess, what they wanted to go with, you know?

Smitty:  Yeah.

ML:  The single “It’s Too Late” is just a great song, you know?  I mean, it’s a famous song.  It’s probably one of the more famous songs on the album.  That was the other thing:  I tried to pick songs that hadn’t been beaten to death, you know what I mean?

Smitty:  Mm-hmm.

ML:  With instrumental covers. As a matter of fact, without even doing any research as far as what songs had been covered before, the interesting part of the song selection is that I have asked, just asked people, whether they were at the label or music people, I said “Have you ever heard an instrumental version of any of these songs, whether it’s guitar or sax or keyboards?”  And not one person can tell me they have ever heard one of these songs.

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