"Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart." ~ Pablo Casals
The intimate Chrome Showroom located inside the Santa Fe Station Hotel and Casino provided the setting for a night of masterful musicianship and beautiful poetic music by one of contemporary jazz’s premier performers. Saxophonist Michael Lington, a native of Denmark, made his fifth appearance at this cozy venue. Along with a very distinguished collection of sidemen, they furnished the appreciative audience with a memorable show filled with straight from the heart affection. Having his mother, on her first visit to Las Vegas, in attendance created an extra special event for Michael, as well as for all those present.
A perpetual feature of Lington’s Vegas shows is his excellent choice in backing musicians. Those chosen for this evening included a solid rhythm foundation anchored by bassist extraordinaire "Smitty" Smith and dynamite drummer Tony Moore. The much in demand guitarist Randy Jacobs (featured a few weeks ago with Dave Koz and Brian Culbertson), and keyboard maestro Kevin Flournoy completed this star-studded grouping. Together, their combined artist credits would comprise a considerable who’s who of modern music.
Michael Lington possesses a quite youthful appearance, and he was stylishly dressed in a long sleeve white shirt, black vest, lavender tie, and designer jeans. His persistent stage demeanor was extremely self-assured and exceptionally charismatic; as he consistently displayed the confidence of a musician at the peak of his artistic development. His entire show on this evening was heavily punctuated with lively stories extending far beyond the standard stage patter provided by most performers.
The first song performed was "Ocean Drive," a pleasing tune from his most recent release Heat, and served its purpose of warming up the show marvelously. The highly dexterous Flournoy, in particular, provided firm support to Lington’s gratifying sax-work. Two of the three major radio hits from Michael’s popular Stay With Me CD followed. The first being the breezy "Pacifica," a song which helped Stay With Me remain aloft on the Billboard contemporary jazz chart for a total of 24 weeks. The even huger radio smash "Two Of A Kind" quickly ensued with Randy Jacobs expertly handling the lead guitar fuzz-tone elements delivered by Chuck Loeb on the record. Lington casually ambled across the stage while he played the familiar song, as the entire band weaved a heavy groove with funky undertones, each of them visibly relishing the moment.
As they took a brief break, Michael lamented the fact that the audience was partaking in mixed drinks, and all he had on stage was bottled water. He mentioned he’d love to have a gin and tonic, and this comment got the desired result when within minutes two ladies from the audience were both handing him his drink of choice. He had the band "bring it down," as he proceeded to chronicle his experience being interviewed by the citizenship adjudicator during his successful legal quest last year while becoming an American citizen. He then announced that the next song would be his initial major instrumental radio hit from the year 2000. The song, entitled "Twice In A Lifetime" was greeted by a large ovation, as everyone recalled the unforgettable melody. The song was affectionately played, after which the band slowed to a low simmer, as Michael recounted that he had written this song in tribute to a certain song which had greatly inspired him upon his first listen when he was only fifteen years old. Up until that time, he had concentrated on playing the clarinet; but after hearing this certain song, he realized that the saxophone was destined to become the instrument for him. He played a portion of the inspirational song, which turned out to be David Sanborn & Bob James’s "Maputo" from their Double Vision collaboration. Maputo, by the way, is the capital of Mozambique.
The next song performed was the first single from Heat entitled "You And I." During the song, Smitty shifted to the front of the stage and performed a nice stinging bass-plucking lead filled to the brim with thumb acrobatics as Michael moved up to stand on the keyboard riser to allow Smitty more of the spotlight. Tony Moore’s expertise on the cymbals and drum kit was also well-defined and in sharp focus on this superb song, with the entire group taking advantage of the expansive treatment.
Lington then announced that it was time for him to acknowledge the band, as he adjusted his tie while gazing at his image in the huge 12’ video monitor located off the side of the stage. After the band introductions were completed, and the crowd’s appropriately enthusiastic response for each band member accepted, Michael stated that he wanted to play the next song specifically for the person who would make the most noise. He roamed through the audience assessing the fervent reactions. He finally decided on a pretty lady to personally serenade with the beautiful song "Everything Must Change." The song, an old standard covered in the past by greats such as Stevie Wonder and George Benson, was also the title track on Lington’s third solo release. She paid him with a kiss on his cheek, and he hastily pulled away from her attempt to wipe the lipstick from his cheek. His journey through the crowd resumed, with him halting occasionally along the way. Michael settled to stop and play for an elegant lady that is assumed to be his mother. He then continued this dreamy, satiny smooth song, to ultimately reach his destination to finish onstage alongside the other band members. He then pointed to drummer Tony Moore, and walked behind the backstage curtains, as Moore proceeded to wail away, providing the most impressive extended drum solo that I’d witnessed in quite some time. His precision was amazing, and he added special flourishes such as showing adeptness at twirling his drum sticks between beats. Moore’s footwork was equally adroit, approximating the results you’d expect from a double bass, with his single bass drum setup.
Lington, and the remainder of the band returned for a scintillating performance of his major hit "Show Me." This song, the third and highest charting song from Stay With Me, had the entire crowd standing in appreciation. After completing the song, the band continued to play the catchy melody. Michael divided the audience in half, pitting each side in a battle to sing the melody loudest and best. The prize offered was his signature Michael Lington cigars; and he delighted a few fans who caught his tosses. The musicians left the stage, but the lights remained dimmed, causing the audience to loudly cheer for an encore.
As he returned to the spotlight, Michael once again thanked everyone for making this evening such a special one. He proceeded to grab tall bar stool, and passed it down to someone in the front row. He then positioned the stool directly facing the center aisle of the first row of seats, and informed the crowd that he was going to perform one of his favorite songs. The song he had in mind was Paul McCartney’s beautiful ballad "My Love," Paul’s tribute to his lovely Linda. "My Love" also was the song Lington picked as his closing song on Stay With Me. If you’ve ever been witness to a master musician’s sheer display of pure passion for their instrument and the music they produce by the unmistakable body language they demonstrate; then you can grasp Lington’s zealous approach to this lovely song. His notes were pitch-perfect, and resonated with richness, clarity, and a purity that was truly outstanding. To state the song was touchingly moving, would be like saying the Mississippi is a fair sized river.
Michael returned up to the stage for his finale; the rocking song "Memphis" from Heat. All the musicians tear it up, and toss it down, leaving the crowd begging for more. It was a fitting ending to an evening of Michael Lington, and his fellow musicians, transmitting beautiful poetic statements to the hearts of all in attendance.