Saxophonist Eric Marienthal is among contemporary jazz's busiest talents. On the day that It's Love was released, Marienthal also played a starring role on the Jeff Lorber Fusion entry Galaxy. The two albums reflect Marienthal's varied talents, as both a creative improviser and a lover of groove-oriented popular music. It's Love was produced by guitarist Chuck Loeb, who also appears throughout the set. Also in this studio band are Yellowjackets' keyboardist Russell Ferrante, drummer Gary Novak, and bassist Tim Lefebvre. Marienthal's love of pop-soul is displayed on the album's opening number, a cover of Brenda Russell's iconic "Get Here." Introduced by Ferrante's piano and spare percussion and guitar, Marienthal's alto moves right into the melody and sticks close while digging deep into his horn's grain for emotion. When the key change happens, he syncopates the lyric flow and allows the melody to guide him. While this track has been covered by many singers, pulling it off in a contemporary jazz setting isn't easy. The temptation to show off one's chops at the expense of the tune is everywhere; Marienthal's discipline keeps him honest and he lets its original intent flow right through to the listener. He switches gears on a 21st century reading of Irving Mills' "In a Sentimental Mood," which doesn't resemble any instrumental version out there -- Loeb's solo guitar intro evokes Wes Montgomery before Ferrante and Marienthal enter and return what has long been a vehicle for jazz improvisation back into a lyric song. The title track is a haunting ballad co-written by Marienthal and Loeb, while the latter's "Two in One" is a midtempo groover with Marienthal soloing on soprano. "Babycakes" and "St. Moritz" were co-composed by the saxophonist with Lorber. The former evokes the Crusaders circa 1969 and 1970 as Marienthal uses Wilton Felder's soulful phrasing in a gospelized groove while Loeb plays tasty fills à la Larry Carlton. Lorber contributes keyboards and additional guitar, too. On "St. Moritz," Till Brönner's trumpet adds depth, density, and an added lyricism to the breezy Caribbean atmosphere until the midway point, where it gets nocturnal and funky. It's Love is a (mostly) laid-back offering, yet it's solid: beautifully arranged and executed, its silky production and emotive undertones, make it a perfect Valentine's Day soundtrack to boot.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek