After two decades of cranking out some of the hottest contemporary jazz on the scene, Eric Marienthal continues to excite the musical senses with tasteful, funky, and thoughtful compositions, as clearly evidenced by Just Around the Corner. I have to admit that I’m a bit biased, as I’d bought and listened to this album long before receiving it for review. I was blown away, as usual, by this sax man’s ability to capture that which lives in all smooth jazzers.
I met Marienthal at a concert in Alexandria, VA, once. That meeting will always stand out in my mind as one of the more pleasant exchanges with artists of his caliber. He is, to me, a congenial, very approachable person who clearly enjoys what he does and has his finger on the pulse of contemporary jazz.
Just Around the Corner is chock full of "goodies" like the opener "Blue Water," a driving intro to what’s to follow. It leads the way to electric, intense pieces like "Times Square," "Open Road," and "Dance With Me." There are also contributions from co-writers and keyboard wizards Brian Culbertson, Jeff Lorber, and Stephen Lu (their distinctive styles are most evident on their respective pieces), as well as a host of other featured musicians such as Dave Weckl, Paul Brown, and Ray Parker Jr.
I suppose my favorite cut here would be "21 Ocean Front." This moderately paced piece has an inexplicable type of melancholy sweetness about it that’s absolutely soul-wrenching. It’s, of course, enhanced by Marienthal’s intensity. No doubt he felt this piece in the depths of his being. I know that I did!
So, after years of delivering this top-shelf quality, Eric Marienthal continues to display consistency in feel, style, fluidity, and intensity with Just Around the Corner. If you like your jazz to speak to you where you live, don’t dare pass on this one.