When Eric was just
10 years old, he used to dream of becoming a professional musician, making his
own records and touring around the world. When he first started playing his saxophone
in 5th grade he really had no idea what all that even meant. Well, after having
performed in over 60 different countries, recorded 10 solo CDs and playing on
hundreds of other records, films, television shows and commercial jingles, Eric
has definitely exceeded the musical goals he set for himself way back then.
graduating high school in 1976, Eric went on to study at the Berklee College of
Music in Boston, MA, where he studied with the legendary saxophone teacher, Joe
Viola. It was Joe that taught Eric how to really practice. Joe introduced Eric
to the books of Marcel Mule, Pierre Londeaux, Sigmond Rasher and many others.
Under Joe's wing, Eric practiced at least 4 hours every night. There were also
jam sessions going on all the time where the students could get together and play
for hours. Eric ended up returning to Orange County, CA after being at Berklee
for 2 years to try and pursue his career. When he left Berklee, he had achieved
the highest proficiency rating given by the school. In 1995, Eric was awarded
the Berklee Distinguished Alumnus Award for outstanding achievements in contemporary
Following his move to Los Angeles in 1980, Eric auditioned for famed
New Orleans trumpeter Al Hurt. He got the gig, moved to New Orleans and played
with Al and his band for about a year. "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
Eric 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 Eric met many of the studio musicians that he still
works with today. Even though the Disney Band was a full time job, Eric still
played jobs at night in a lot of the clubs around town. It was during one of these
club gigs with bandleader John Novello that Eric would get his first big break.
While playing at a club in North Hollywood, Eric looked up from the stage to see
jazz legend Chick Corea walk through the door. Chick had been one of Eric's very
favorite all-time musicians. "When I looked up and saw Chick walk in, I thought
'I must be hallucinating!'" Chick was a friend of John's, so Eric figured he was
there to see John's band. But unbeknownst to Eric, Chick was looking to add a
sax player to his famed Elektric Band with bassist John Patitucci, drummer Dave
Weckl, and guitarist Frank Gambale. Not only did Chick stay for the whole night
but he sat in during the 2nd set. "We played one of Chick's standards, 500
Miles High. Thank God I knew that tune!" Eric says that his wife Lee Ann happened
to be there that night and could see the excitement in his eyes. "It was an incredible
thrill to be on stage playing with one of my all time musical heros." Afterwards
they talked and Chick told Eric how much he liked his playing. The real bombshell,
however, didn't hit until the next day. While Eric was sitting in the Disneyland
Band break room the phone rang. "The bass player answered it and said it was for
me. He had an odd look on his face and when I asked who it was he said it was
Chick Corea's manager. I totally froze!" Eric finally made it to the phone and
the manager told him that Chick wanted him to join the Elekric Band.
to say, Eric didn't stay in the Disney Band long after that. The Elektric band
went on to record 6 albums, won 2 Grammys and travel to every corner of the globe.
After the Elekric Band's CD Light Years was released, Eric was offered
his first solo record contract with GRP records. "It was a dream come true for
me. Playing with Chick and getting signed to my own deal, what more could I ask
for?" Chick produced Eric's first record, Voices of The Heart and it was
recorded live at Mad Hatter Studios in L.A. His next 2 CDs, Roundtrip and
Crossroads were produced by Eric and his long-time friend and bass playing
giant, John Patitucci. Of the two, Crossroads was a recording that reflected
where Eric's musical head was at. "John and I wanted to make a record that people
would talk about years later. We didn't think about anything except the music.
I still have people come up and tell me that Crossroads is their favorite
record of mine... mostly musicians!" It was during that time that Eric became
one of the most recorded sax players in contemporary jazz. He played on over 50
GRP records alone including records by Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, David Benoit,
Don Grusin, Dave Weckl, John Patitucci, GRP All-Star Big Band and The Rippingtons.
Eric juggled being a member of Lee Ritenour's band, David Benoit's band, Chick's
Elektric band and his own band.
In 1991, Eric decided to call upon two
musicians whom he had always wanted to work with, Jeff Lorber and Russell Ferrante
of the Yellowjackets, to write with and produce his CD Oasis. "At the time,
I didn't personally even know Jeff or Russell and I was hoping that, when I called
them, they wouldn't say, 'Eric who?'" It ended up being a great collaboration
and one of Eric's most successful records. It made it into the top 5 on the Billboard
Contemporary Jazz Charts and 2 of the tunes made it into the top 10 of the National
Contemporary Jazz Radio Charts. Eric went on to record two more records for GRP;
One Touch and Street Dance, both produced by Jeff Lorber.
was around this time that Eric became interested in writing his first instructional
book, Comprehensive Jazz Studies & Exercises, now published by Alfred/Belwin
Jazz. Eric spent 3 years writing this 200-page book and was inspired by Chick
Corea and the members of the band. "Each member of that band was such a prolific
writer. Not only music, but instructional materials as well. I always wanted to
own a book that combined a ton of things to practice and woodshed with some melodic
and harmonic things that would really help my improvising." Alfred went on to
publish two more books written by Eric: The Ultimate Jazz Play Along is
a "music minus 1" book for all instruments with 12 original tunes to work on and
improve improvisation. It also comes with an audio CD to play along with. The
3rd is called The Music of Eric Marienthal, a collection of Eric's transcribed
solos from various recordings over the last 20 years. This book comes with a "lesson
on CD"" which takes the listener through the fundamentals of playing, practicing,
improvising and much more. Eric has also filmed 3 instructional videos, also published
by Alfred: Play Sax From Day One, Modern Sax and Tricks Of The Trade.
In 1997, Eric was signed by legendary jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour to record
for his new label, i.e. Music. Lee produced Eric's CD Easy Street and the
title track, which features Rick Braun on trumpet, made it to #2 on the National
Contemporary Jazz Radio Charts. That same year, Eric 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 second 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". 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, Eric 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 Ripp's has been incredibly fun for me and the
band is awesome"! Eric'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 Eric's 14-year-old son, Robert. "Rob plays guitar and wrote this song which
was originally more of a folk song. After I put my two cents in, it turned into
more of a smooth jazz tune and I don't think Rob will ever forgive me"!
newest CD is his third for Peak, entitled Got You Covered. It's an amazing
collection of some of Eric's favorite tunes and was recorded live in the studio.
"Of all 10 of my records, this is my favorite. It features Russell Ferrante, Peter
Erskine, Russ Freeman, Chick Corea, Dave Carpenter and Luis Conte. Most of the
record was recorded live all together and all at the same time. It was so refreshing
to record this way and the music sounds just like we played it." The record has
a very heartfelt, mostly acoustic sound, and is one that Eric is obviously very
For the past 7 years, Eric has been the musical director of 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 guest artists such as Lou Rawls, Patti Austin,
David Benoit, Brian Culbertson, Rick Braun, Vesta Williams, Jeff Lorber, David
Pack and many more, these concerts have raised well over a half-million dollars
to date for this charity.
Among all the different bands that Eric has been
a part of, one of his favorites is Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band. Gordon is a
very prominent, Grammy-winning composer in Los Angeles and the Big Phat Band is
among the most popular Big Bands in the world today. Eric is the band's lead alto
sax player and loves being there. "This is about the only band I've ever been
in that has as much fun traveling together as we do playing together! The audiences
always go completely crazy during our shows and they know most of the music we
play." The band is made up of some of L.A.'s top studio musicians. The Phat band's
third record The Phat Pack was released in June of 2006. According to Eric,
it's the best record Gordon has ever made.
These days, Eric is touring
and recording continuously. Besides playing with his own band and the others that
he is a part of, Eric 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."
Management: Andi Howard Entertainment. Andi or Valerie can be reached at
310-385-4135 or e-mail at AHowardEnt@aol.com.
visit Eric's web site at www.ericmarienthal.com.