Considered one of the greatest alto saxophonists in jazz history, the late Julian "Cannonball" Adderley was known for his exuberant and happy soul-jazz sound in an era (late '50s, '60s) when most players took a more studied, serious approach; his legend grew from the immediate personal way he communicated with his listeners. Citing Cannonball as one of his chief influences, Eric Marienthal has in many ways carried on that great tradition, inspiring the passion of smooth jazz listeners with a style that incorporates seductive, funky R&B, melodic pop, and the improvisational elements of jazz. Walk Tall is a brilliantly realized tribute to his musical idol featuring fresh renditions of seven tunes popularized by Cannonball, and new pieces inspired by Adderley's rich legacy. Among the better Cannonball tunes here are Marienthal's shuffling, hip-hop take on "Work Song," featuring Chris Botti's gentle trumpet harmony; the bluesy, retro-soul flavored title track; a haunting and elegant "Skylark"; and a brisk, quintet arrangement of "The Way You Look Tonight." He also does a seductive version of Cannonball's trademark, "Mercy Mercy Mercy," the Joe Zawinul piece that scored on the pop charts in 1967. Marienthal's originals prove to be some of his finest to date, including the coolly rhythmic "Imagine That" and the funky and soulful "Groove Runner." Contributions by pianists Rob Mullins and Russell Ferrante are also welcome additions.
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran