Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Eric Marienthal. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Eric Marienthal: – I grew up about an hour south of Los Angeles and started playing music in school when I was 9 years old. My best friend wanted to join the band so we both chose the alto saxophone based on how it looked. I don’t think either of us knew what it even sounded like.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
EM: – I used to listen a lot to more straight ahead jazz players like Cannonball Addreley, Art Pepper, Phil Woods, Bud Shank, players like that. It wasn’t until I was in college that I really got exposed to players like Stanley Turrentine, Hank Crawford, David Sanborn, Junior Walker and a lot of modern players. I was really drawn to a lot of different kinds of players and I think I tried to sound like all of them.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
EM: – I’ve always been into practicing classical etudes and exercises. The more control you have over your instrument the easiest is to play what you hear. My teacher at Berklee was Joe Viola and he was the first to really get me practicing with a metronome. It’s one thing to be able to play something but if you can play it with the metronome and make that metronome feel good while you’re playing then not only are you helping your time but you’re also developing your feel. Then it’s a matter of getting that feel happening in every style of music you play.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
EM: – I learn a lot from all different kinds of music. Music to me is about taking in the sound and feel of what you’re attracted to and putting all those influences into your own music. I get stagnant if I don’t change up what I’m listening to. That’s probably true for most people. You get inspired listening to one thing one day and something else the next. It’s all those influences combined that leads us in our musical direction.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
EM: – Practice!! It feels so much better to practice a lot before a gig and really feel like you have control over what you’re doing. Having a good reed and just making sure everything is feeling good. It’s really distracting if there are things that are within your control that aren’t right. I end up thinking more about that and less about the music that I’m trying to make. If I’ve done everything I can like practice, prep the music, get the stage sound right and things like that then the music is so much more fun to make. It’s spiritual as well. By practicing you feel more connected to your instrument and you can think about the spirit of the music instead of the mechanics of it.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
EM: – You always have to make music that comes organically. Trying to force a direction or style that doesn’t come naturally never seems to work. If you can feel it you can play it … usually! 🙂 It’s hard to force that kind of thing.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
EM: – Hopefully what people what to hear from you is the same as what you want to play for them. If someone is coming to hear you play or buying your CD they already have a good idea of what they’re in for. It’s that familiarity that makes playing live so much fun. It really is something special that people will take the time to listen to your music and hopefully enjoy it.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us? How have you been able to manage without this type of exchange given the current state of the world and the pandemic?
EM: – I think we are all looking forward to getting back to a healthy world. Being so limited in what we are able to do right now give me a new appreciation for traveling to places and playing music for people. Right now we’re doing a lot of performing online and it’s great to at least connect with people in that way. I think we are all looking forward to live music again!
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
EM: – As long as we keep music fresh and innovative people will stay excited about it no matter how young or old you are. You might be playing a song that’s decades old or older but approaching all music with imagination is what keeps it exciting.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
EM: – Trane said it all. Music brings out what’s inside o fus whether we’re playing or just listening.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
EM: – To get to play with Miles! Hey, I can dream, can’t I?
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
EM: – I’m really into the McCoy Tyner trio record called “Infinity” featuring Michael Brecker. Some amazing playing on that record!
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
EM: – Be happy and know that the world will come back together and be whole once again.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
EM: – I’m actually use to having been on the road a lot of the time over the past 35 years so to be honest I really am enjoying spending most (if not all) of my time at home. Right now people are using the internet to go see musicians instead of musicians going to see them! Maybe not ideal but we’re lucky to be able to travel to each other virtually.
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
EM: – What is your favorite CD that came out this year on Shanachie Records that features Randy Brecker, myself, George Whitty, John Patitucci and Dave Weckl? 🙂
JBN: – Shanachie by John Patitucci…
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
EM: – All kidding aside, I just hope and pray for health, happiness, peace and unity for our world. Music can be a great remedy for what ails us.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan