The beat bounces in Mt. Gretna this summer with two huge jazz events from Gretna Music, held at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse.
On Friday, August 12 at 7:30 p.m., saxophonist Michael Lington will perform his unique brand of old-school soul inspired jazz tunes.
Lington, born in Copenhagen and now living in Los Angeles, began his career at the age of 7, performing classical music on the clarinet. During this time, he played with the Tivoli Boys Guard.
He was also receiving jazz influences from his grandfather, Otto Lington, who worked with American musicians playing in Europe, including Fats Waller.
“My grandfather, who was my mentor, he always worked with and was surrounded by American musicians. I think just by that, without knowing it, I was sort of being inspired,” said Lington.
At the age of 15, he lost interest in playing the clarinet classically and switched to saxophone, wanting to play the R&B and Soul music he had come to love.
“It’s hard to explain, but it was something that resonated with me,” said Lington.
Now, nine albums and hundreds of performances later, Lington is at the forefront of contemporary soul jazz. The saxophonist has toured extensively with Michael Bolton, Barry Manilow, Bobby Caldwell and many more, and played for distinguished guests such as former President Bill Clinton and the Danish Royal Family.
He calls his latest album “Second Nature" an “attempt of digging back into my roots.” The album “is much in line with Southern soul music from the 60’s,” he explained, from the recording process to the album design.
This was done in the effort to create a product that was as personal as possible.
“You have to come up with something that means something when you record. Otherwise, why are you doing it?” asked the saxophonist.
Taking these songs to the road, Lington describes his performances as “high tempo, high energy.”
“My live show is very high energy. It’s just fun. I consider it a party,” said the musician.
Lington will be showcasing both the soul and R&B tunes of his latest albums and his previous tunes.
“It’s a little bit of a variety of my catalog,” he said.
Aside from touring, Lington continues to keep busy working on new material, designing a signature mouthpiece and maintaining his side ventures, Michael Lington Cigars and Lington Wines.
“The process of creating them and dealing with them is very similar to music,” he said about the cigars and wines, likening the winemaking process to steps in making an album.
And while he is a newcomer to the area, he is anticipating his arrival.
“I really look forward to playing at Mt. Gretna,” said Lington.
On Saturday, August 13 at 7 p.m. comes the Central PA Jazz Fest, opened by the Russell Malone Quartet and headlined by the Houston Person Quartet.
Person, a veteran tenor sax player, came to national recognition for his work with vocalist Etta Jones and with a number of albums recorded for Prestige Records in the 1960’s. The albums showcased his signature sound, full of accessible soul sensibility - an aesthetic he has kept through the years.
“Well, I like to play for the people, so I like to keep it accessible and have fun with it,” said Person.
He also looks at music as a way to remember the good times.
“To me, that’s what music is about. Evoking memories,” he said.
Person continues to play nationwide with a variety of artists, as he explained.
“Oh I’ve been traveling the country and playing with a lot of interesting people. And just enjoying being around people,” said Person.
He fondly recalled his shows in Mt. Gretna for the Friends of Jazz in years past, explaining, “I love that area.” Person also set some high expectations for the audience.
“I’d tell you to come out, and let’s have some fun. There’ll be things to dance to, things to sing to. I won’t leave them behind,” he said.
Gretna Music will also be hosting a performance by pianist Lisa de la Salle on Sunday, August 14 at 7:30 p.m. She will be performing pieces by Schumann, Wagner and Profokiev.
For ticket information, visit gretnamusic.org.