Woodwind & Brasswind Contributing Writer – Greg Vail
Eric Marienthal is an amazing saxophone player with a long list of
credits that speak to his creativity and talent. I spoke with Eric and
discussed his set up on soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, with the goal of
understanding why he uses each product and how these choices shape his sound.
Marienthal is best known as an alto saxophone player. He has
played the same Selmer Mark VI alto sax since he was 15 years old. It is 100%
original, with the original neck and lacquer, Selmer resonators, and a few
minor ergonomic adjustments to fit his hands better: Eb and F palm keys and
side E key built up, and an Oleg low Bb extender. In Eric’s own words, “This
alto is just ME! It blows free and unrestricted - it is my sound.”
Eric’s mouthpiece setup is a Beechler,
metal #7 mouthpiece with a brass, soprano
sax Rico H ligature on it. He says the soprano ligature fits the
metal Beechler alto mouthpiece pretty well, but it does need a little extra
care to get the reed to fit snug. The ligature is in the shape of an H with 4
primary reed contact points at the outer corners. It would appear that the H
ligature is a sound driven choice, and that the freedom and tone Eric enjoys
offsets the slight size difference between the ligature and mouthpiece.
Flexibility seems to be a reoccurring theme for Marienthal as he
talks about his sax gear, commenting a few times, “the flexibility to play any
style without needing to change my set up.”
Eric has played Vandoren
saxophone reeds for decades now. He prefers the Traditional Vandoren
2½ reed and plays the same on every saxophone. Eric first praised Vandoren for
their quality and then added, “The Vandoren reeds give me an open feel that
allows me to explore the full dynamic range of the horn.”
I asked Eric how much time he would guess he plays each of the
different saxophones and he said, “I think I am on alto about 50% of the time,
soprano 30% and tenor 20%.” Most of us know Marienthal as primarily an alto
saxophonist but have enjoyed hearing him on soprano sax as well.
Eric has played a Yamaha YSS-62S, silver-plated soprano saxophone
for 25-years. He said he got it the same time Dan Higgins purchased his Yamaha
soprano, and has played it ever since.
The soprano mouthpiece is a Selmer
Super Session H hard rubber that John Reilly modified to smooth and
darken the tone a little bit. This mouthpiece is open sounding and blends
really great playing with a section. The ligature is a brass Rico H, played
Vandoren 2 ½ reeds.
Marienthal’s tenor set up includes an old Selmer Mark VI 63xxx
with original neck and lacquer. His tenor mouthpiece is a Berg
Larson 100 over 2. This mouthpiece is a great mix of, not too bright
or too dark a sound. Combined with the Traditional
Vandoren 2 ½ reeds and held by the Brancher brass ligature, the tone,
blend and dynamic range is just what he wants from a tenor. I believe the
Brancher is a single screw ligature with two small bands of metal that attach
to a plate over the reed; basic and free while holding the reed securely.
Eric is a passionate and expressive saxophone player that
continues to be active wherever great music is being made. There are a few
words he used over and over to explain why he liked a particular piece of gear
in his set-ups for each saxophone. I believe they are very revealing in
defining what is really important in his philosophy of sound. “Free, open, full
dynamic range, flexible, unrestricted, one universal set up for any music
style, blend for section playing, stand out for lead playing” – Marienthal
wants it all, and it seems to all be work great for him.
You can hear some of Eric’s music using the above setups on his
website – www.ericmarienthal.com.