I had never heard the name of Greg Phillinganes before hearing Lazy Nina, but once I looked him up it called to mind how scientists describe their knowledge of dark matter: they couldn’t detect it directly, but evidence of it was everywhere. Scrolling through his Discogs page, it’s easier to find a legend of R&B/Soul that he hasn’t worked with. He appears on every one of Michael Jackson’s solo albums. He’s worked and/or toured with Herbie Hancock, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Donna Summer, Eric Clapton, just to name a few. That said, I’m guessing of all the legendary artists he’s recorded with though, he probably treasures his appearance on Billy Crystal’s 1985 Christmas Song most of all.
Lazy Nina comes from his second solo album entitled Pulse, released in 1985. In putting together this post, I found a recording of him performing the song on Soul Train where you can see Greg in action:
In 2015 he gave an interview as part of an oral history project with the National Association of Music Merchants where he discussed how he was able to work with so many different talented musicians:
How am I able to fit in with so many kinds of artists? Just understanding who they are musically and getting into their essence and the essence of their music. It says to the artist that I’m paying attention to them, I’m not just bringing me to their situation. I’m completely adapting to their situation.
All of Pulse is worth checking out if you like this song. It leads off with a cover of YMO’s Behind the Mask and if that’s not enough to hook you then stop reading this blog right now!!!