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Eric Marienthal: Turn Up the Heat

Longtime smooth-jazz saxman Eric Marienthal paid tribute to Cannonball Adderley on his last CD, but on Turn Up the Heat he returns to safer commercial ground. There’s a reason much of this CD sounds like a Rippingtons record: it’s produced by Russ Freeman and released on his label.

Marienthal works with the big talents in smooth jazz on Turn Up the Heat, including Freeman, Rick Braun, Jeff Lorber and Chris Botti. The CD is polished, but it’s surprisingly by-the-numbers smooth jazz. That’s too bad since Marienthal took a step in the right direction with Easy Street in 1997, produced by Lee Ritenour, where he combined bold playing while remaining accessible to his smooth-jazz audience; Turn Up the Heat limps to the finish line. With ample experimentation and trend-setting ideas zipping around in contemporary jazz these days (it’s there if you know where to look), it’s surprising that Marienthal didn’t try to stretch out a bit. Another version of “Takin’ It to the Streets”? Note for note to boot. He fares better on Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar,” which Botti pumps up with his trumpet.

If you’re looking for serviceable smooth jazz, here’s your CD. Here’s the problem: Turn Up the Heat sounds so five years ago. Memo to Marienthal: Schedule a meeting with Tommy LiPuma or Paul Brown.

Originally Published