Eric Wurzelbacher has today premiered his new single titled ‘B for Beauty’. Eric is a saxophonist hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio. His new 8-minute treat of a single “B for Beauty” opens the doors to a life experience, and quietly lulls you in an entirely different direction than you’d expect. That’s all to say that Wurzelbacher is a multi-genre gem in the Midwest; and as more and more light shines on those gem’s facets, the more they gleam. But Wurzelbacher is far from new to the music industry. He studied at the world-renowned Cincinnati Conservatory College of Music and has also performed at the Newport Jazz Festival.
Wurzelbecher and his band (Matt Wiles-upright bass, Ben Tweedt-piano, Phillip Tipton-drums) take us down a winding path in their newest release. According to the artist, this tune is “the journey of a romantic relationship as both people grow and change, but still hold onto what makes them feel at home with each other. Love and gratitude for travel, exploration, and mother nature”
As “B for Beauty” opens up with a rich stack of piano chords, we know we’re in for a lush tune. But the plaintive feeling doesn’t stick around for long. After the melancholy piano has its initial say, the drums and saxophone come in right behind it. Finally, the upright enters, making us feel like us listeners are inside a traditional jazz lounge…but it gets instantly turned on its head.
The drums modulate, and the harmonic structure has changed– Now, is almost as if Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” went jazz. Wurzelbacher’s rock influences are apparent- They sneak into his jazz tunes like how a wild grapevine might climb up a garage. It’s wild, beautiful- and belongs there.
By the time we are at the halfway mark, the relationship has gotten more lively and boppy. We travel- both with the couple and sonically. And by the time we reach the end, the music is overflowing with joy and energy.
As a whole, Wurzelbacher is a daring artist who isn’t afraid to spice up his music… and this one feels like cardamom- Sweet, multi-note, interesting, but with a hint of familiarity.
“A little history of how and where this was recorded: my good friend, Eric Sheppard, just opened a brand new state-of-the-art recording studio called “Legacy Sound Works”. To get the studio up and running, he and his team were offering free studio sessions for one song. I very gratefully accepted this offer and happened to be sitting on this single, B for Beauty.
A little personal note; I just got married last fall and went on a wonderful honeymoon in Europe for two weeks. We spent time in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris. When we returned, I felt so full of inspiration and love that something had to come out… a month later I had this song. I had been playing it at live shows for a few months and making small adjustments until it felt just right. This is pretty different from a lot of previous compositions. People were consistently coming up after shows and asking about the song describing it as “beautiful” and “transcendental”. So, naturally, I thought this needed to be recorded. It all kind of worked out perfectly time-wise.”
In this tune, what is the beauty?
It’s multifaceted. I started writing this song after coming back from an inspiring trip to Europe with my wife. We had just got married and everything felt so full of love and beauty. This honeymoon phase eventually wears off and comes and goes- that’s all part of life. However, I’ll never forget those wonderful moments in life and I can sense when that energy or “beauty” is flowing back in my life due to things that I’m usually not completely in control of. The crazy thing that I’ve come to realize is that the “beauty” or feeling of pure love is always there waiting to be touched and shared to everyone if you let it.
Music is a fantastic outlet for this to happen; personally that’s what makes it so addictive to me. “B” is what I’ve called my wife pretty much since we first met 8 years ago. To summarize, “beauty” is the pure love that is human consciousness, which is always available to you if you let it come into your life. We’ve all experienced it at some point or another; I wanted to attempt to capture it in a song while I was lucky enough to be engulfed with it at the time.
I noticed that you also teach saxophone to students/give private lessons. What have your students taught you about music?
You always hear people say “if you really want to learn something, try teaching it…”. This rings very true for me; I’ve been teaching private lessons/ masterclasses for about a decade. Music can be a particularly tricky subject to teach, especially if you primarily learned how to play by ear. I compare it to teaching English in some ways; we know how to use it inherently very well, but try explaining the simplest concepts to someone who has never spoken a word of English… that’s a daunting task if you don’t have the tools to execute. Teaching has forced me to break music concepts down further than I thought was even possible, which has been very beneficial for me.
We tend to oversimplify and categorize things, when in fact almost everything has its own unique complexity when broken down far enough. When you start digging into the super small details you also find how interconnected everything is. Teaching has given me both a more in-depth and holistic understanding of music.
Do you write pieces knowing the story or theme first, or does it come to you as you go?
Every piece of music I’ve ever written has come from a life experience or set of experiences for me. I typically don’t realize it at the time; sometimes days, weeks, or even months will go by and I’m still digesting what happened. These are experiences that taught me something about myself and about life. Something about those experiences was impactful enough that I continue to think about it. When my ruminating mind has done all it can to decipher the situation and I’ve potentially learned a few lessons from it, it’s usually time for it to express itself through music. I don’t just decide when to write about it either… it has to come out naturally and with me usually not even realizing that’s what I’m writing about.
I typically realize retrospectively what the song is about and then that allows me to give it a title. Writing has always just been a fun thing to do for me (and still is very much so), but over the years I’ve begun to realize that I actually need that process of experiencing, ruminating, and then writing music to embody it in order to fully digest an experience.
Who is your biggest rock influence, and who is your biggest jazz influence?
That’s a really tough one and could very easily change on the given day that the question is asked… However, if I had to choose, I would say Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audioslave) for rock and Kenny Garrett for jazz.
How is the jazz culture in Cincinnati? It’s such a vibrant city.
There is an amazing music school placed in the heart of the city- College Conservatory of Music (CCM). This has certainly helped to cultivate a great music culture here in Cincinnati. It’s a small enough city where you pretty much know everyone in the scene, which I think is kind of a beautiful thing in a way.
Despite the smaller size and it being primarily an industrial city, there is an incredible amount of original, boundary-pushing music that floats around here. The level of musicianship is something I took for granted for years as well. I’ve traveled to a lot of places, and Cincinnati definitely holds its own with the musicians I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and playing with over the years.
Your quartet has also made a great name for itself. How did you guys all meet/ what’s the story?
I’ve been playing original music in public for almost 8 years now… and I’m incredibly grateful that I even get the chance to do this. The personnel in my quartet has fluctuated over the years due to multiple factors (people moving to different cities, being busy with their own stuff, etc.), however there is still a core group. Most of the musicians that I’ve played with in my quartet have been from a connection through CCM (the music school).
Great musicianship and listening abilities are crucial to play my music, because a lot of things are fluid and progress on feel. I have charts, but sometimes they are suggestions and what is happening in the moment always takes precedent. Most importantly of all, I consider all of the bandmates I’ve been fortunate enough to play with as great friends. You can pretty much make anything sound good with great chemistry.