Eric Marienthal – Walk Tall

Walk Tall
Eric Marienthal

Eric Marienthal again proves himself to be one of the most versatile saxophonists in jazz with Walk Tall, an homage to the music and spirit of soul-jazz saxophone legend, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. The album features fresh renditions of tunes popularized by Cannonball, and also five new pieces that were inspired by Cannonball’s rich legacy. A “true labor of love”, Walk Tall brings the timeless flavor of Cannonball Adderley’s music to a whole new generation of listeners, and further cements Marienthal’s status as one of smooth jazz’s most appealing and exciting artists.

Says Marienthal, “Aside from being a tremendous influence on me as a player, Cannonball was a very positive, uplifting person who inspired everyone he touched. The title track reflects the kind of life he had, always able to hold his head up high through all adversity. He worked through racial prejudice and he did it with grace, a positive attitude, and a great deal of style.”

Joining Marienthal on Walk Tall are some of the best in the business, including guitar great Lee Ritenour, bassist Stanley Clarke, keyboardist Russell Ferrante, trumpeter Chris Botti, and drummer Harvey Mason (who also produced the record).

As a teenager, Marienthal saw Adderley perform live in 1975, shortly before his death. He recalls, “What I loved the most about that night was how diverse the music was . . . No matter what Cannonball played or how diverse the set was, the music flowed like a great story being told by a master storyteller.” Marienthal sifted through many classic recordings before choosing seven tunes which “flowed best together.” Among the tunes he chose are “Work Song”, featuring Botti’s gentle trumpet harmony; a brisk, quintet arrangement of “The Way You Look Tonight”; a breezy, straight-ahead “Unit 7” (featuring Stanley Clarke); the bluesy, retro-soul flavored title track; and a lilting, atmospheric take on “Country Preacher”, with Marienthal on soprano sax. He also does a seductive, urban version of the trademark “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, a Joe Zawinul piece that scored on the pop charts in 1967. Marienthal’s original tunes prove to be some of his finest to date, including the coolly rhythmic “Imagine That”, and the funky and soulful “Groove Runner”. Also included are the ballads “Here in My Heart” by Rob Mullins, and “Sunstone” by Russell Ferrante, as well as the harder-edged funk of “If You Need Me To”.

A native of Sacramento, California, Marienthal grew up in Los Angeles and began playing saxophone and clarinet in grade school. In addition to Adderley, his early musical heroes were John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Hank Crawford. After attending the famed Berklee College of

Music in Boston, he launched his professional career as a sideman for singer Maureen McGovern and Dixieland trumpeter Al Hirt. In 1986, legendary keyboardist Chick Corea saw Marienthal performing in a local Southern California jazz club and asked him to join his newly forming Elektric Band alongside John Patitucci, Frank Gambale and Dave Weckl.

While recording and touring with Corea from 1986-1995, Marienthal became a popular solo artist in his own right beginning with Voices of the Heart (1988) on GRP Records. His other recordings include Round Trip (1989), Crossroads (1990), Oasis (1991), One Touch (1993), and Street Dance (1995). He has also recorded and performed with numerous contemporary jazz notables over the years including i.e. Music keyboardist Gregg Karukas, David Benoit, Dave Grusin and the GRP All-Star Big Band.

“The most challenging aspect of being a recording artist is figuring out new and unique ways to approach each album,” he says. “I’m always searching for fresh ideas, and to me the notion of a Cannonball tribute sparked a lot of energy and excitement for everyone involved in this project. Aside from uncovering a literal treasure-trove of great historical music, it was a lot of fun and a great learning experience bringing classics to the modern age.”

For more information visit the Eric Marienthal web site.