THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE
TSJR's Featured Artist
On a biweekly basis, TSJR will feature here an artist (or group), either new or well-established, who has impressed our staff recently or over the years. The spotlight is now on...

Eric Marienthal – Keeping the Heat On

June 27, 2010

Since his introduction to the sax in 5th grade, Eric Marienthal has performed in over 65 countries, recorded numerous solo albums, and played on hundreds of other records, films, television shows, and commercial jingles.

After graduating high school in Southern California in 1976, the passionate saxophonist went on to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. There, he studied with the legendary saxophone professor, Joe Viola. By the time he left Berklee, Marienthal had achieved the highest proficiency rating given by the school. In 1995, He was awarded the Berklee Distinguished Alumnus Award for outstanding achievements in contemporary music.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1980, the saxophonist auditioned for famed New Orleans trumpeter Al Hirt. He got the gig, moved to New Orleans, and played with Hirt and his band for about a year.  Marienthal recalls, "We would play at Al's club in the French Quarter during the week, and, almost every weekend, we'd travel to a different city to play. It was my first time seeing most of the country." When the band ended, Marienthal returned to L.A. and began the slow climb into the world of professional music. He played in every situation he could. A spot opened up in the Disneyland Band, and it was there that he met many of the studio musicians that he still works with today.

While the Disney Band was a full time job, Marienthal would still play jobs at night in a lot of the clubs around town. It was during one of these club gigs with bandleader John Novello that Marienthal was about to get his first big break. While playing at a club in North Hollywood, he looked up from the stage to see jazz legend Chick Corea walk through the door. Corea had been one of Marienthal's very favorite all-time musicians. "When I looked up and saw Chick walk in, I thought I must be hallucinating!" the artist says.  Corea was a friend of Novello's; so, Marienthal figured he was there to see Novello’s band, but unbeknownst to Marienthal, Corea was looking for a sax player to add to his famed Elektric Band with bassist John Patitucci, drummer Dave Weckl, and guitarist Frank Gambale. Not only did Corea stay for the whole night, but he sat in during the 2nd set. "We played one of Chick's standards, ‘500 Miles High,’” Marienthal recalls. “Thank God I knew that tune! It was an incredible thrill to be on stage playing with one of my all time musical heroes." Afterwards, they talked and Corea told Marienthal how much he liked his playing.  On the following day, he offered Marienthal a spot with his Elektric Band. That union produced 6 CDs, and 2 of those CD's were Grammy award winners. Marienthal went on to perform with a multitude of artists, including Elton John, Barbara Streisand, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Dave Grusin, and Lee Ritenour.

In 1997, Marienthal was signed by legendary jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour to record for his new label, i.e. Music. Ritenour produced Marienthal’s Easy Street CD.  The title track, which features Rick Braun on trumpet, made it to #2 on the National Contemporary Jazz Radio Charts. That same year, Marienthal was voted to be among the
top 3 alto sax players in the Jazziz Magazine Reader's Poll along with Phil Woods and David Sanborn. Eric's 2nd record for i.e. Music, Walk Tall, was a tribute to one of his musical idols, Cannonball Adderley. "Cannonball has always been a huge inspiration to me, and I was so thankful that Lee was into letting me make that record," he says. Produced by Harvey Mason, the single, "Here In My Heart,” stayed at #1 on the National Contemporary Jazz Charts for 3 weeks, and the Cannonball classic, "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," made it to #5.

Currently, Marienthal is signed to the Peak Records label, owned by Rippingtons founder Russ Freeman. "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 Ripps has been incredibly fun for me and the band is awesome!” he states.  Marienthal’s first 2 recordings on Peak were Turn Up The Heat and Sweet Talk, the latter of which featured the title track that was co-written by Marienthal's 14-year-old son, Robert. “Marienthal’s latest release is Just Around the Corner, containing the smooth, solid, and crisp sax work for which the artist has been known throughout his career.

Marienthal has also written 3 instructional books, "Comprehensive Jazz Studies & Exercises", The Ultimate Jazz Play Along" and "The Music Of Eric Marienthal" as well as 3 instructional videos, "Play Sax From Day One", "Modern Sax" and "Tricks Of The Trade," all published by Warner Bros. Publications (now Alfred Publishing/Belwin Jazz).

Every summer for the past several years, Marienthal has put on an annual fundraising concert for High Hopes. High Hopes is a non-profit organization in Orange County, California, that works with people who have suffered traumatic head injuries. With the help of many guest artists who have donated their time to perform, these concerts to date have raised a most considerable amount of money for the charity.

Besides playing with his own band and others, Marienthal gives Master Classes and performs with high school and college bands around the country. "I love being able to work with students and help them improve. There's no better feeling than to help a player achieve their goal.”  It’s safe to say that he should know a little something about achieving goals.

Source: EricMarienthal.com

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