Michael Lington

Pure

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Though for some reason less renowned than his fellow smooth jazz sax greats Dave Koz, Boney James, and Richard Elliot, the Danish-born Lington has been a core part of the genre experience for years. While he's always had a way with killer ballads -- typified on this set by the sensual closer "A Simpler Time," featuring the thoughtful acoustic guitar of Jonathan Butler -- his powerhouse R&B, rock, and jazz-driven approach on his funky tunes makes him the guy fans can point to when naysayers dismiss "smooth jazz" as glorified elevator music. As its title implies, Pure is one of his best efforts and gets back to the funk basics, drawing clear influence from Junior Walker -- most directly on the jangling, blistering, and brassy fun of "Shotgun," featuring the trademark raspy vocals of Michael Bolton (with whom Lington often tours). Lington ensures that his melodic horn intensity is surrounded by the ultimate funkmeisters like bassist Ricky Minor and guitarists Ray Parker, Jr. and Paul Jackson, Jr. -- with a smokin' bluesy solo by Jeff Golub on the high-octane "Playtime." But the old-school blues/jazz vibe Lington is after on most of these tracks comes even more powerfully from his alternating keyboardists Jeff Babko and Dave Delhomme), who dazzle nonstop with their simmering harmonies on Hammond B-3 and Fender Rhodes. It's also great to have the likes of Lee Ritenour (the exuberant opening track "Roadtrip") and Brian Culbertson (who plays and co-produces on "Roadtrip" and "Like Old Times." Bill Withers' always engaging "Lovely Day" is thrown in for old-school good measure, adding a cool chill-out factor to balance the intense, horn fired sizzle that dominates the set. For Lington fans, sax maniacs, and anyone who likes to groove, it's a Pure joy.

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