Eric Marienthal has a stellar live performance. I attended his concert in Düsseldorf some years ago. He spell bounded the audience with his music and appearance. An artist, playing not only onstage but in between the audience, that was a new experience for me. He was joking with the listeners and opened the music for ears and mind.

Eric is one of the most prolific and blessed sax player of our generation. During his terrific time with Chick Corea sharing stage, recording 6 albums and winning 2 Grammy awards, everybody knows Eric as Chick's sax player. Eric became one of the most in-demand sax player of contemporary jazz. He played on over 50 GRP records alone including records by Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, David Benoit, Don Grusin, Dave Weckl, John Patitucci, GRP All-Star Big Band and The Rippingtons.

He started his solo career and released Voices of The Heart (1987), Round Trip (1989), Crossroads (1990), Oasis (1991), his first record with Jeff Lorber, One Touch (1993), Street Dance (1994), Easy Street (1997) and Walk Tall (1998). Currently, Eric is signed to the Peak Records label. "When Russ asked me to join the Rippingtons, he also offered me a deal with his label and I jumped at it. Playing with the Ripp's has been incredibly fun for me and the band is awesome!”, comments Eric. Turn Up The Heat (2001), Sweet Talk (2003) and Got You Covered (2005) are already released on this label. His newest album Just Around The Corner was released October 16, 2007. Three producers and arrangers gave artistic form to the new album: Brian Culbertson, Stephen Lu and Jeff Lorber.

Some critics say that the first notes of an album are important for buyer's decision to obtain a CD or not. The starter Blue Water has all ingredients to satisfy the audience, great intro and a hooking melody. Brian Culbertson plays like a young god on his piano and Eric has that special seductive sax sound which will mesmerize all at once.

Stephen Lu co-wrote with Eric the following Tim Square. Stephen founded in 1999 Chibola Productions. He has worked on projects ranging from rock and r&b to smooth jazz and music for television. In the smooth jazz genre he produced  or performed on albums of Norman Brown, Michel Lington, Michael Manson, Jimmy Reid, Dave Koz and Brian Culbertson. So it was Brian who recommended Stephen to Eric. Eric comments: "A young guy with a fantastic ear for what's fresh and current. The chemistry between the three of us was immediate, and we wrote some tunes together and then Stephen and I wrote three songs that also made the album." The result is absolutely convincing.

The title of the third song Flower Child reminds me somehow at the Woodstock Festival. But this song is more contemplative than glamorous. More mood than defined the tune lives with a constant flow. Dave Weckl, Jeff Lorber and Paul Brown are on one set, that's Eric's attraction.

There is no doubt that Brian Culbertson is a real hit maker. That's evident while listening to the captivating Open Road. Eric Marienthal is the best to transfer Brian's notes to a vivid sax performance. 21 Ocean Front is full of melancholy. Feelings connected to a place and sensitively interpreted by Eric.

Just Around The Corner makes no difference. Stephen Lu has a good hand in writing emotions into notes. Eric comments: "I named this record Just Around The Corner because you never really know what's around the corner in music or in life. After a couple of wild years in my own life I realize this now more than ever. Right when you think something's gonna go one way, it go the other. (Doesn't that just drive you nuts?!?!) That's why I wanted to have my hands in the writing of these songs so much. I really knew what I wanted this record to feel like and I'm really thankful that Brian, Steve, Jeff and I all had the same musical direction in mind."

The soulful ballad I Believe In You combines strength, confidence and affection to an emphatic melody perfectly performed in Eric's way. The up-tempo Dance With Me showcases Eric's wilder side. The melody is realized in several layers using the overdub method.

Jeff Lorber produced Your Move brings in some Funk. Jeff Lorber's shuffle technique finds the ideal platform in the retro sound of his Rhodes piano.

The album ends with the slow heartfelt ballad, a lyrical duet of Eric on sax and Brian on piano. A great place for romantic moments.

With Just Around The Corner Eric Marienthal showcases anew that no musician can create a better smooth jazz album than a contemporary jazz musician. And when Eric describes his album as a "melody-driven, straightforward pop instrumental" than this is only a concession to the critics, which are still moaning against the use of the term jazz in this genre. Don't try to pigeonhole good grooves.




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  • Title: Just Around The Corner
    Artist: Eric Marienthal
    Year: 2007
    Length: 0:44:14
    Genre: Smooth Jazz
    Label: Peak records

    01 Blue Water [4:12]
    02 Times Square [4:27]
    03 Flower Child [4:52]
    04 Open Road [4:14]
    05 21 Ocean Front [4:19]
    06 Just Around The Corner [4:24]
    07 I Believe In You [4:14]
    08 Dance With Me [3:38]
    09 Your Move [4:37]
    10 Lost Without You [5:17]