Posted Monday, Aug. 4 – 12:03 PM
Story by Steve Simmons –
Michael Lington is a busy guy. He’s a saxophonist with a burgeoning music career that’s gaining him recognition and fans, and an entrepreneur with his own line of wine and cigars.
His eighth studio recording “Soul Appeal” was released to acclaim this spring and numbers from it have climbed up and stayed on the charts.
He will sample selections (plus hits from his previous albums) for fans at the Long Beach Jazz Festival, Saturday, Aug. 9 at Rainbow Lagoon Park on the backside of the Long Beach Convention Center on Shoreline Drive.
Jazz fans will hear the title track from the album, which has been #1 on the Groove Jazz Music Chart for an unprecedented 16 weeks; and the second single, Uptown Groove, which was released to contemporary jazz radio last week and has been getting lots of air play. “It’s exciting to be embraced by radio,” says Lington. “Hearing your songs never gets old.” He’s often heard on The Wave (94.7 FM) and on Sirius’ Watercolors station
For this latest album he wanted to get in touch with his love of American rhythm and blues and soul. Lington and R&B/pop producer Barry Eastman wrote more than 40 songs for the CD, working to recreate the “‘60’s and ‘70’s Memphis soul vibe.” “We wanted the music to feel authentic,” says Lington. “It took a lot of writing to nail the sound.”
So how does a kid growing up in Copenhagen learn to love American music? A link is his grandfather, bandleader, composer and violinist Otto Lington, who loved and performed with American artists like Shirley Bassey, Josephine Baker and Fats Waller; and who recorded more than 300 albums with his orchestra.
Hearing his grandfather’s stories and listening to his records exposed young Michael to the American sound. He remembers being at his grandfather’s house when the senior Lington got a call from the Mills Brothers. “They just called to see how he was doing. I was in complete awe,” Lington recalls.
His own musical revelation came when as a teenager he discovered the soul and rhythm and blues sounds of American ‘60’s stars like Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett and the ‘70s with idols like Marvin Gaye and Al Green.
Until then, he’d studied classical music and played the clarinet in the Tivoli Boys Guard, a miniature queen’s guard and marching band of kids 8-16, that even played for the Danish queen’s 50th birthday.
“After I listened to David Sanborn, who was influenced by King Curtis, (another of my heroes) I lost interest in classical music and never wanted to play the clarinet again,” says Lington. “I had such a strong reaction. I said, ‘that’s my style and that’s my calling right there’.”
He started thinking about coming to America as a teenager; and made the journey to L.A. at 21 “with just my sax and a suitcase. “I thought ‘how bad can it be?’ I soon realized that the level of musicianship and artistry is so high here.” So he started practicing—hours a day.
Playing a New Year’s Eve gig at Spago he met singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bobby Caldwell (What You Won’t Do for Love) and ended up touring with him for four years.
Record scouts saw the audience reaction he got at one concert, resulting in a contract with Nu Groove in 1996. He’s been with several companies since then.
Lington has also been a special guest with for other performers including Barry Manilow, Bobby Caldwell, Randy Crawford and Michael Bolton. On Bolton’s tour, he played more than 300 shows in more than 50 countries.
But he strives for a schedule that allows him to tour and then be home for a while. “I’m lucky.” he admits. After living in L.A. for 23 years, five years ago he visited a friend who lived in Beverly Hills “and fell in Iove—here you can walk to restaurants, cafés and parks.”
A “fan of a relaxing cigar,” and a member of the Grand Havana Cigar Room on Cañon; seven years ago, Lington hosted a party where he wanted to give out his own line of stogies. A cigar-distributor friend helped him contact a company in Honduras. “The minimum order was 4,000,” says Lington, “so I said we better make these cigar really good if I end up having to smoke them all.” The smokes went over so well, that they decided to keep the company going “and we’re adding more blends for more of a selection,” Lington said.
In December, he will be one of the stars of the Havana Jazz Experience, a cultural exchange trip “that will focus on the rhythms and beats of Cuba.” Participants will learn about the gardens, art and architecture of UNESCO Heritage sites of Old Havana and Vinales and meet locals.
Lington, who beame a citizen in 2008, has returned to his native Denmark five times to perform for the royal family, including at the wedding reception of Crown Prince Frederik, the future king. “It was amazing,” recalls Lington. “It looked like a movie set; it was a surreal experience.”
His wine line came about when he was approached by Solana Cellars in Paso Robles, which knew about his music and cigars, for a joint venture. So he visited the central California town and wine center to talk. The nearly two-two-year venture has resulted in “Soloist,” a viognier; and “Lington Trio,” a blend of malbec, petit verdot and petite sirah. Coming soon will be a reserve cabernet. The wines are now sold at Nic’s, Mastro’s and coming up at the new Spaghettini and Dave Koz Lounge to open soon on Cañon.
’’It’s designed as supper club where music is the main feature,” says Lington, who has a 20-year relationship with the owners. He will be hosting a monthly evenings there. “They’ll be late night jam sessions in a cool and classy club, reminiscent of The China Club, where you never know who’s going to show up.”
He balances his career and myriad interests “with lots of help, and people to run the companies,” says Lington. “I’m intrigued by the idea of ‘how are we going to make this happen? What’s the next step?’”
Read the story here: Beverly Hills courier