Michael Lington - Second Nature

Michael Lington
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Saxophonist Michael Lington heard the music of Stax and Hi records all the way in Denmark, and it never got out of his system. So Lington assembled a group of soul men and women who have a deep connection to the music for his ninth album – the audio love letter to the city and sound of Memphis titled Second Nature.

Lington paid attention to detail as he tried to make the musical stew that is Memphis music second nature to him. He dug into the classic sessions the produced all that great music of the 1960s and 70s and even drew inspiration by visiting the Stax Museum.

Saxophonist Michael Lington heard the music of Stax and Hi records all the way in Denmark, and it never got out of his system. So Lington assembled a group of soul men and women who have a deep connection to the music for his ninth album – the audio love letter to the city and sound of Memphis titled Second Nature.

Lington paid attention to detail as he tried to make the musical stew that is Memphis music second nature to him. He dug into the classic sessions the produced all that great music of the 1960s and 70s and even drew inspiration by visiting the Stax Museum.

Then Lington wrote. He eventually came up with the 12 tracks on Second Nature, with 11 originals and one cover – and oh, what a cover it is. Lington’s tenor fuels a funky and hard charging rendition of the Bar Kays’ “Soul Finger” that was actually recorded on the day that Ben Cauley, the trumpeter for the Bar Kays and the sole survivor of the plane crash that killed most of the band’s original members as well as Otis Redding, died. Did the band enter the studio with knowledge of Cauley’s passing? I’m not sure, but the players provided a rousing tribute.

Guests on this album include Stax alum Booker T. Jones, who adds some church inspired funk to the organ on the opening track “Beale Street.” The Dap Kings slide into their signature deep funk groove on the “Stone Cool.” The band best known for backing up the powerful vocals of Sharon Jones was more than ready to engage in a little improvisation as well as providing a bass driven foundation for Lington’s creativity on the sax.

Although the overwhelming majority of the tracks on Second Nature are instrumentals, Lington included two guest vocalists. It was certainly a treat to hear the soulful voice of Taylor Dayne on the mid-tempo love song “Alright.” Dayne retains the range and energy that she displayed during the 1980s. And another highlight comes from SoulTracks’ favorite Sy Smith, who goes straight torchy on the blues infused “Some Kind of Way.” Smith pulled herself away from touring the world as the vocalist for trumpeter Chris Botti’s band and from recording a jazzy take on the Janet Jackson songbook to drop this gem.

While Second Nature is billed as a tribute to the sound of Memphis, Lington wasn’t above paying tribute to a son of Philly with the closing number “Midnight Drive” that captures the flow of the late great Grover Washington, Jr.

In a sense, Michael Lington’s love for American blues, jazz and R&B is second nature. His grandfather, Otto Lington, worked with legends such as Josephine Baker and Fats Waller. So it’s no great surprise to see Lington sitting in the pocket with Booker T. or Ray Parker, Jr.  His respect for the music and skill in performing it is more proof that the blues and the genres that it birthed are indeed a universal language and that a talented artist like Michael Lington can capture the essence of this language beautifully. Solidly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 Listen to Second Nature

 
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