Eric Marienthal / Chuck Loeb

Bridges

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Saxophonist Eric Marienthal and guitarist Chuck Loeb team up for the relaxing, stylistically expansive 2015 effort Bridges. The album follows up the duo's previous collaboration, 2012's It's Love, which featured production from Loeb and showcased their synergistic musical creativity throughout. This time out, they share production duties on nine original compositions and one cover, an expressive Latin jazz reading of pianist Keith Jarrett's "Lucky Southern." Here, they are joined by esteemed bassist John Patitucci as well as drummer Byron Landham and percussionist David Charles. While Bridges certainly fits nicely into the smooth jazz genre, there's something deeply thoughtful, organic, and probing about the music Marienthal and Loeb make together. These are languid, textural productions that cross the boundaries between groove-oriented jazz, atmospheric new age, and exuberant electric fusion. Cuts like the evocative leadoff "Westward" and the dreamy, introspective "Crossing" set the album's mood, with Loeb's delicately arpeggiated guitar riffs complemented by Marienthal's supple saxophone melodies. While the full group tracks are superb, the inventive duo tracks impress the most. On the flamenco-infused "Puentes," Marienthal creatively employs his saxophone keys as a percussion instrument, weaving the airy, woody rhythm into Loeb's own percussive acoustic guitar motif. Marienthal then overdubs a second lead melody line against that harmonic bed, and it all works so beautifully that you'd never guess it wasn't all played live. Elsewhere, they dive headlong into the swinging '60s jazz-funk of "Last Minute Blues," dance their way through the aforementioned "Lucky Southern," and take a meditative drive toward the horizon on the John Coltrane-influenced "Sun Rays."

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