What happens when the guy manning the guitar seat in Fourplay
meets up with the erstwhile sax guy for the Jeff Lorber Fusion
? More than what you might expect. In fact, Eric Marienthal (the sax guy) and Chuck Loeb (the guitar guy) both defy and go beyond expectations on the surprisingly eclectic and entertaining Bridges
. Marienthal re-teams with Loeb since his last solo album, It's Love
(eOne, 2012) and this collaboration is one of the rare pairings where musicality takes precedence over throwing some "names" together and see if anything of interest happens (too often nothing does).
These are two artists who are the quintessential "oh yeah, them too" names who get overlooked whenever lists are made of the best musicians on their respective instruments of choice. That's an oversight which Bridges
will correct. Don't make the mistake of assuming this is more smooth jazz sludge or jazz fusion fuzziness. This is not that nor any other sub-category of jazz. It's only
jazz and that's all it aspires to be.
Marienthal and Loeb lead a tight band with bassist John Patitucci
, drummer Byron Landham and percussionist David Charles locking down the rhythm. Loeb takes a few laps around the Pat Metheny
track on tunes like "Westward" while Marienthal takes an understated approach at times then alternates to fiery soloing that never stays into excess. That's always an assumed risk when musicians whose claim to fame is outside of straight-ahead jazz. They overplay which is frenzied or underplay which is dull.
Neither of those missteps are made here as the formulas and fall backs are tossed out. There are no cover tunes (unless you count one byJim Hall
licks while Marienthal seems to have a ball when he solos in for a landing as Patitucci and Landham hold the bottom down. Loeb last visited this territory with the criminally overlooked Plain n' Simple
(Tweety Records, 2011) where he demonstrated how comfortable he is playing it straight, but for the ears of this listener, Marienthal's range of saxophone stylings were a revelation.
Loeb's "Daily Bread" sets the table for a paired-down duet between himself and Marienthal's loney soprano sax and it's lovely and meditative. The aforementioned Jarrett offering "Lucky Southern" opens with Patitucci bass followed by Marienthal, Loeb, Landham and Charles joining in on the fun. By the time the last notes of the bluesy "Noir" fade out there's a whole new appreciation of the versatility amply displayed by the band.
When a musician goes above and beyond what is expected from them that is what the idiom is all about. Jazz is not about meeting expectations. It's about exceeding and transcending them and that's what makes this album both exciting and gratifying. Bridges
finds Marienthal and Loeb nailing each and every one of those in a tour de force of finesse, artistry and simple old moxie. Highly recommended for both the devout fans of the duo as well as the skeptic with an open mind and responsive ear.
Westward; Crossing; Puentes; Last Minute Blues; Daily Bread; Lucky Southern; Salamanca; Duality; Sun Rays; Noir
Eric Marienthal: soprano, alto, tenor & baritone saxophone, flute, clarinet, sax key percussion; Chuck Loeb: guitars, guitar cajon; John Patitucci; Byron Landham: drums; David Charles: percussion