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January/February 2008

Eric Marienthal
Just Around the Corner
Peak Records

Eric Marienthal’s musical double life, certainly no secret, is alive and well on his new CD. Marienthal tears it up in one life as a saxophonist with the Chick Corea Elektric Band, the Yellowjackets and the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band. In the other, he’s a smooth jazz saxophonist with the Rippingtons and the owner of a well-established solo career. After a misstep with a full album of uninspired cover tunes, Marienthal roars back with Just Around the Corner, his most fully realized smooth jazz CD over the past few years.

It’s an energetic and unapologetic embracing of pop-jazz taken to giddy heights thanks to Marienthal’s pop sensibilities and the production and co-writing skills of keyboardist Brian Culbertson, with whom Marienthal has toured in recent years. The tandem rushes out of the gate with the lead tune, “Blue Water,” defined by Marienthal’s peppy sax work and Culbertson’s unmistakable pop groove. The hits keep coming, relentless really, on other tracks with Culbertson collaborator Stephen Lu and two with another keys man who knows a thing or two about writing accessible tunes: Jeff Lorber.

No vocals, minimal improv and alto, tenor and soprano taking the lead. There’s the right ingredients for a tasty smooth jazz pop record, the making of which is tougher than you may believe but exquisite with the right talent.

Originally published in January/February 2008
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