SAXOPHONIST Eric Marienthal always regarded himself as a sideman, so when major jazz recording label GRP offered him the chance to record his own albums, he literally fell on the floor. ''It took me a while to pick myself up,'' said the Californian who has recently released his fifth album, One Touch. ''I've always considered myself to be someone who plays with other people,'' said Marienthal. This may be self-deprecating, as the ''other people'' include Chick Corea - who has included him in his Elektric Band for the past 51/2 years - David Benoit, Dave Grusin, Don Grusin, Patti Austin and Lee Ritenour. ''I think that when I started playing with Chick, it was a big break for me. I used to do a lot of recording work in LA when I first started playing with him. It opened the door for quite a few things,'' said Marienthal. ''After the first record with Chick, GRP, which is Chick's record company, approached me about recording an album. It is certainly the best label for jazz. They've been really great and supportive. It's been wonderful,'' he said. Marienthal, currently touring with Corea, is due to give Hong Kong a taste of his own music when be performs at the Jazz Club on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He said the hardest part of adapting from sideman to frontman was picking and choosing among the various styles to settle on a direction. ''You've got to take a minute to decide what style of music you want to play. It took me a couple of records to decide what direction I wanted to go in. I like all kinds of music,'' he said. It wasn't until Oasis, the record before One Touch, that Marienthal felt his direction had become more apparent - which was borne out by the reception the album received. Reaching the top five on the Billboard magazine charts, the album was a critical and commercial success. One Touch goes further. ''It is a continuation of what I started with Oasis ,'' Marienthal said. ''My goal was to take the funkier elements of Oasis and make them even funkier and take the slower pieces to the next step, the next melodic level.'' Marienthal is taking time out to tour with his own band, but will not be bringing it to Hong Kong. Instead, acclaimed local guitarist Eugene Pao and his band will take the stage with Marienthal at the Jazz Club this week, and continue to Malaysia. Marienthal said he sent the music to the musicians a month ago and would begin rehearsals when he arrived in the territory. The band will primarily play music from One Touch, although tracks from Oasis and older albums, as well as a few ''straight-ahead'' tunes will be included. Marienthal said he was looking forward to the opportunity to mix with musicians from a different culture, not to mention the chance to strut his stuff live. ''Playing live is a lot of fun . . . although there is pressure because you want to play well, if the audience is enjoying it, there is a communication that can lead to a really fun exchange. Then the pressure is off and you can just play. ''If you make a mistake, it's gone and you continue from there, you can't do anything about it. There is no sense crying over spilled milk.'' However, a record was forever, he said. ''A lot of people will hear it.'' That is not to say he is steering clear of the recording studio. A date has already been set on which he will start his next album. But the coming year is so packed he only has a narrow window of six weeks in January and February in which to put his inspiration on to tape. ''It is a real challenge to create a live feeling in the studio. Instead of a club or theatre filled with people, you are in a dry studio which is quiet and less loose.'' As for the future, Marienthal has little to wish for. Once he wished he could play with his idols, like Corea, and now he does so regularly. ''I've always wanted to be a musician. I've never looked back. I feel like the luckiest sax player in the world.'' Marienthal's Jazz Club shows are on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 9.30 pm. Tickets are $100 (members) and $200 (non-members).