Lana‘i toots its own horn with jazz festival

One of the star players at last year’s jazz and blues festival at Grand Wailea, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, returns to Hawaii to co-headline the free third annual Lanai Jazz Festival.

Presented Friday through Sunday by the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai, in partnership with the Lanai community, and Jazz Alley TV, the fest also features trombone virtuoso Delfeayo Marsalis, plus an ensemble of island talent including Paula Fuga, jazz guitar duo Damon Parillo and Ron Hetteen, Robbie Ray Lopaka with Dave Graber, nose flute player Calvin Hoe, and Jazz Alley TV Trio featuring Gene Argel, Paul Marchetti and Doug White.

First coming to fame with Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, Marienthal is also acclaimed for a broad stylistic range embracing bebop, fusion, funk and smooth jazz.

A Los Angeles Times review raved: “Eric Marienthal has some of the most exuberant saxophone manners of anyone playing contemporary jazz.” And Allmusic praised, “Eric Marienthal has always had limitless potential.”

Besides recording and touring with Corea, Marienthal has also performed with such popular jazz bands as The Rippingtons and the Yellowjackets.

On his latest solo album, “It’s Love,” this versatile artist focused on romantic material with a bunch of sweet original instrumentals and some covers including the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” and Oleta Adams’ hit “Get Here.”

“I’d never really made a record of primarily ballads,” says Marienthal, who arrives in Hawaii from touring Europe. “It’s so important that you do something fresh every time you record.”

His cover of “Get Here,” which opens the album, had never been recorded before as an instrumental. “Brenda Russell, who wrote the song, called me and said she was excited about my version and thanked me for doing such a beautiful job,” he reports. “She’s a friend and I was a bit nervous because I hadn’t told her I was going to do it.”

While he effortlessly plays a wide range of styles, this gifted saxophonist most loves straight-ahead jazz.

“Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis and Coltrane are always pretty close to the top of the play list on my phone,” he says. “But like Duke Ellington said, there’s two kinds of music, the good kind and the other kind.”

Exposed to jazz as a child, his passion developed in high school. “I was fortunate that a lot of the other students were very into jazz, very into Miles and Coltrane,” he recalls. “And we lived near Disneyland, so you could hear every big band that was on the road.”

After time at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, he began playing with trumpeter/bandleader Al Hirt in New Orleans, and later joined the Disneyland Band. While playing a Hollywood club gig one night, he was amazed to see Chick Corea in the audience.

“Chick heard me play and I didn’t know he was there to decide if he wanted me to join the Elektric Band,” Marienthal explains. “He sat in on the last set, which was mind-blowing. He called me in the Disneyland break room and offered me the gig. I wish everybody had an opportunity to play with a musician of the level of Chick Corea. You learn so much about music. I learned how to communicate with other musicians, making music through non-verbal communication.”

With the Elektric Band, Marienthal played on six of its albums (including two Grammy winners) as well as traveled around the world.

While working with Corea, the saxophonist was offered his first solo recording contract with the GRP jazz label. During this time, he became one of the most recorded sax players in contemporary jazz, playing on more than 50 GRP albums, including projects by Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, David Benoit, John Patitucci, The Rippingtons and the GRP All-Star Big Band.

“It was incredibly exciting,” he notes. “The All-Star Big Band was all these different solo artists, a lot of amazing players like Arturo Sandoval, Randy Brecker and Tom Scott. There’s talk now of getting back together.”

Often recording with great players on his terrific, 2005 solo album, “Got You Covered,” Marienthal teamed with friends like Yellowjackets’ keyboardist Russell Ferrante, former Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine, percussionist Luis Conte, Chick Corea and The Rippington’s guitarist Russ Freeman.

Recorded live in the studio, some of the album’s most notable covers included Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” Gipsy Kings’ “Love & Liberte” and a duet with Corea on “My One and Only Love,” the latter recorded in just one take.

“It’s a great way to capture the feeling of music, which you just can’t get when you overdub parts,” he enthuses.

” ‘My One and Only’ was recorded incredibly quickly. Chick walked in, we say hello, we talked about what tune to record, and he said, ‘How about I start and you take it from there.’ The whole thing was done in 10 minutes.”

Playing last year at the jazz and blues fest at the Grand Wailea Resort, Marienthal says he was very impressed with the caliber of Maui’s jazz players.

“I thought the musicians were fantastic. They played so great with everybody. It’s one thing to play with your band, but to play with new people is sometimes more fun because it’s fresh and we can build new ideas. I’m so looking forward to playing with these musicians on Lanai.”

The events for the third annual Lanai Jazz Festival Friday to Sunday are free and open to the public and range from Friday’s Dessert & Jazz Under the Stars at the Lodge at Koele, Saturday’s main show with festival musicians at the Lodge; and Sunday’s Jazz Festival Brunch and evening concert in the Great Hall.

Reggae musician Mishka returns to Stella Blues Cafe on Saturday evening. He’s about to release a new seven-song EP, “Ocean Is My Potion,” which features Jimmy Buffett singing on the beguiling title track and “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season.” It’s released on Buffett’s Mailboat Records label. Mishka will perform as a trio with a guitarist and percussionist.

The Grammy-winning, Chicano rock power trio Los Lonely Boys play the Castle Theater on Friday.

The sibling trio of JoJo (bass, vocals), Henry (guitar, vocals) and Ringo Garza (drums, vocals) shot to fame in 2003 with its chart-topping single “Heaven,” and a platinum album which led to a tour opening for the Rolling Stones.

In time, they earned a seal of approval from Carlos Santana. The Latin rock legend invited the band to tour with him and play on his album “All That I Am,” and when he made a surprise appearance at the Boys’ show at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium in 2004, Santana announced: “John Lee Hooker, Michael Bloomfield, and Stevie Ray Vaughan are very proud of you.”

All gifted vocalists, collectively the band boasts strong harmonies, a knack for crafting catchy songs, a formidable rhythm section, and the inspired, scorching guitar work of Henry Garza, leading Guitar World to name him its breakthrough artist of 2005.

Reviewing their most recent album “Rockpango,” PopMatters praised: “The band jumps from Latin-tinged funk to bluesy, Stevie Ray Vaughan styled guitar blowouts to sweet, acoustic melodies, while the brothers’ charismatic harmonies remain a constant selling-point throughout.”

* Los Lonely Boys play at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Castle Theater. Tickets are $35, $45, $55, and $65. For tickets, call 242-7469; purchase at the box office; or visit