Two for Tuesday: Eric Marienthal

Saxophonist Eric Marienthal has some pretty impressive jazz credentials: highest proficiency rating from Berklee College of Music, and started his career playing with Al Hirt and Chick Corea. He’s recorded on six of Chick Corea’s Elektrik Band albums (two of which won Grammys) and written a number of saxophone and jazz education books for Alfred Publishing. He’s recorded 14 solo albums and has worked with Lee Ritenour, David Benoit, and Jeff Lorber, of whose band he has played.

His most recent album was 2015’s Bridges. The late Chuck Loeb produced the album for him and backed him on guitar. Here’s the lead track from that album, “Westward.”

From the 1998 tribute album Walk Tall: Tribute to Canonball Adderley, here is “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”

You can hear more of Eric’s music on Spotify and YouTube. His website hasn’t been updated in a couple of years, but he’s pretty active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, though he doesn’t appear to be too active on the latter.

Eric Marienthal, your Two for Tuesday, August 20, 2019.

Two For Tuesday: Acoustic Alchemy (Encore Presentation)

Another encore presentation, this from 2013

I can’t believe that I haven’t featured this band before now. By far, this is my favorite smooth jazz group. I could do a whole year just on them.

The concept behind Acoustic Alchemy was the blending of musical styles, including jazz, reggae, funk, Chinese, classical and flamenco, as well as the blending of Nick Webb’s steel-string guitar and Simon James’ nylon-string. They started in 1981 at a time when there wasn’t much demand in the UK (their home) for the sort of music they were doing. They recorded a couple of albums that didn’t sell well, and split in the mid-1980s. Simon James would go on to form the band Kymaera in the early Nineties.

Nick Webb met nylon-string player Greg Carmichael in 1985, and Acoustic Alchemy was reborn. One of their first gigs was as in-flight entertainment between the UK and the US on Virgin Airlines. They sent some demo material to MCA Records, who called them a few weeks later to record. That first album, Red Dust and Spanish Lace, was released in 1987 and was an immediate success, and over the next two years they released two more albums, Natural Elements (1988) and Blue Chip (1989).

MCA bought GRP Records in February 1990. By that time, GRP was a huge smooth jazz label with artists such as Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, and Dave Grusin, and Acoustic Alchemy was moved to that label for their fourth album, Reference Point, released later that year. 1991 featured the release of Back on the Case, which added country to their particular blend of styles. Webb discovered fourteen tracks that he had recorded with Simon James which formed the basis for 1992’s Early Alchemy. Their next two albums, 1993’s Against the Grain and 1994’s The New Edge, featured edgier tunes and a general harder edge to their playing.

In 1996, the group released the album Arcanum. It featured a couple of new tunes, but most of the album consisted of new recordings of old favorites. It was around this time that Nick Webb was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His last album with the band was 1998’s Positive Thinking…, and he was spelled for much of the album by longtime associate John Parsons. Nick died on February 5, 1998.

Greg Carmichael decided to keep the band going, and employed Miles Gilderdale, a sideman on several albums, as the new steel-string player. They made other changes as well, including a new label (Higher Octave) and new musical influences. The albums released since Webb’s death include The Beautiful Game (2000), AArt (2001), Radio Contact (2003), American/English (2005), and This Way (2007). Their latest album is 2011’s Roseland, and they’re currently on tour.

Again, limiting myself to just two tunes by the band was difficult, but I managed to pick a couple. The first is the title track from Roseland, their latest album which shows where they are today as a group. The second is “Casino,” a song originally recorded with Simon James, then re-released on Natural Elements and again on Arcanum. Every time I saw them live, this was the tune that they started the show with.

Acoustic Alchemy have since released a couple more albums, 2014’s Live In London and 2018’s 33 1/3. Acoustic Alchemy, your Two For Tuesday, August 13, 2019.

Two for Tuesday: Norman Brown

Back in March, I talked about two-thirds of the smooth jazz supergroup BWB, Rick Braun and Kirk Whalum, and intended on talking about the third member, Norman Brown, but I must have forgotten. So let’s fix that.

Norman Brown was brought up in Kansas City, Kansas. He was initially influenced by Jimi Hendrix and The Isley Brothers, then heard Wes Montgomery and got deep into jazz. Since 1992 he’s released 11 studio albums as a solo act and three with BWB.

From 1994’s After The Storm, here is “Lydian.” This album was awarded jazz album of the year by Soul Train Music Awards.

From his latest album, this year’s The Highest Act Of Love, the title track.

His website tells us that he’ll be appearing at Rainbow Lagoon Park in Long Beach, California this Saturday. He’s active on Facebook and invites his fans to contact him on Messenger. You can hear him on YouTube, iTunes, Soundcloud, and Spotify.

Norman Brown, your Two for Tuesday, August 6, 2019.

Two for Tuesday: Paul Brown

Guitarist Paul Brown got his start as a recording engineer and producer, working with artists such as Al Jarreau, George Benson, Norman Brown (no relation) and others. He had played guitar since he was seven, and had played in several bands in high school and studied music and math at the University of Oregon, but it wasn’t until 2004 that he recorded his first album, Up Front.

From his second album, 2005’s The City, “Winelight.”

He recorded the album Foreign Xchange with Marc Antoine in 2009. Here’s the title track.

In all, Paul has recorded nine studio albums. His most recent was 2018’s Uptown Blues, with guest appearances by Jacqui Brown and Kenny Rankin. His website tells us his next show will be August 8 at Bogies bar and Lounge in Westlake Village, California with Jacqui Brown, after which he’ll be appearing in Monroe, Michigan on August 10 at St. Mary’s Park with Marc Antoine. Of course, you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify.

Paul Brown, yourt Two for Tuesday, July 30, 2019.

Two for Tuesday: Euge Groove

I could have sworn I had featured Euge Groove already, but it doesn’t seem I have. Let’s fix that.

Saxophonist Steven Eugene Grove, better known as Euge Groove, didn’t issue his eponymous solo album until 2000, but he had played for a few years with Tower of Power after Richard Elliot went solo. He also did session work for a number of pop acts, most notably the girl group Exposé. He has recorded 11 studio albums and appeared on albums by Elton John, Huey Lewis & The News, Richard Marx, Bonnie Raitt, Richard Elliot, Peter White and others.

From his most recent album, 2017’s Groove On!, the title track.

From 2005’s Just Feels Right, “Chillaxin'”.

His website tells us he’ll be in Philadelphia at the South Kitchen and Jazz Parlor this Thursday and Friday and in Cleveland Heights, Ohio in Cain Park with Kirk Whalum, Peter White, and Jonathan Butler this Saturday. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Spotify.

Euge Groove, your Two for Tuesday, July 23, 2019.