Have you ever wondered what songs you’ve heard your whole life would sound like in a different genre? Does the rock and roll songbook translate into… jazz? Thankfully, Cincinnati’s Eric Wurzelbacher has the answer. His newest record, Don’t Climb The Towers, explores the jazzier side of rock music with a wailing saxophone as the lead instrument.

Wurzelbacher and his band (Noah Wotherspoon on guitar, Devon Leigh on drums, Aaron Jacobs on bass, and Da’Rosa Richardson on keys for a few numbers) got together to create a deeply nostalgic record. This is Wurzelbacher’s first collection of cover material. The album reveals a personal journey with music as well as a fondness for the songs of years past.

Led Zeppelin. Jimi Hendrix. Black Sabbath. These are household names in the pantheon of rock. From the slow build of “No Quarter” to the raucous jams of “Spanish Castle Magic,” Wurzelbacher & Co manage to create faithful reinterpretations of classic songs. The spirit of the songs remains the same while the instrumentation gets a pretty incredible facelift. Most notably, Wurzelbacher’s reinterpretation of “The Ocean” takes the bombastic Zeppelin experience and adds a swing. The horns bring out something new in the riff.

But maybe the most remarkable part of this album is the newer entries. The band covers songs from more modern artists like Jeff Buckley, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Soundgarden. Buckley’s “Dream Brother” features a truly haunting saxophone as the band builds the song up from daydream to night terror. How this band managed to turn “Bulls On Parade” into a swinging saxophone celebration I will never know. But, I know I’ll be listening to this cover all summer.

Wurzelbacher has tapped into the soul of music. No matter the decade, no matter the sonic differences, music is still music. With precision and passion, the band has recreated some of the most iconic rock songs of the 20th century. What in the world will Wurzelbacher & Co give us next?

Check out our other features with Eric Wurzelbacher HERE.


Were there any covers you recorded that didn’t make the album? Any plans for more cover albums?

I had considered cutting a few actually, but I ended up using them all. I was battling the internal debate as to what would be too crazy to try to pull off as a saxophonist, but in the end I realized that the feeling of apprehension was a good thing and I should stick to my original ideas on covering these particular songs. For example, “Bulls on Parade” almost got cut because I felt like it was too wild and gratuitous, but at this point it’s morphed to become one of my favorite takes on the album.

This project was so much fun that I definitely plan to do another cover album at some point. I think the next album I put out will be in a totally different direction though (I’m sitting on some chord-less jazz trio recordings). I really like the idea of pushing boundaries in all directions that are of interest to me. This is the best way to learn about yourself as an artist and human being. It’s okay if you go “too far” in one direction – nobody is keeping track. If you happen to alienate a segment of your audience, they will return when they hear something they like and you will mostly have just gained new fans of your music that you otherwise would’ve never reached.

You talk about your music combining “the conciseness of rock and the freedom of jazz.” How did you find freedom in these songs?

It feels like a really good balance to me when I can play songs that people recognize and love, but also freely improvise within that realm. When you are playing a song like “War Pigs” or “Breaking the Girl”, people are much more tolerant when you have a totally free coltrane-esque section in the middle of the song. That is precisely what we did on both of those songs actually haha. Sometimes playing completely free and esoteric can seem alienating to the average listener and almost self- serving as a musician. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with either method, I’ve just found that personally I like sitting somewhere in the middle of all of that and being able to express myself freely while capturing the energy and attention of an audience with something recognizable – this is essentially the whole essence of this album. I wanted to pay homage to these incredible songs and bands, while also playing them in a style true to myself.

Why do you think rock music endures?

I think all good music endures, despite the genre. It’s a case by case scenario, but for me particularly, rock music was something that really spoke to me growing up and still does. A lot of it is aggressive by nature, but some of the most impactful songs are also incredibly sensitive and vulnerable at the same time. To be completely honest, this form of expression aligned with my mindset as a young adult. I had a lot of angst and anger, like many of us do as young adults trying to navigate this very complicated world. I also never related to any forms of violence, so aggressive music seemed like a beautiful outlet that didn’t harm anyone and actually helps to heal others by creating a sense of solidarity. This is a core reason I continue to create music- if one of my recordings happens to affect someone in a positive way and/or makes them feel like they are not alone, I consider it a success. This is my best guess as to why rock music endures- we’re all in this thing together- nobody has to fight it or figure it out completely alone. Once you realize this, it can be a life changing experience for the better.

In 20 years, what bands do you think would make the cut for an album like this? What will be “classic rock?”

This is something that I think about a lot… the trend of individuality seems to be getting more and more prevalent. There are less true “bands” today than I can ever remember. More and more acts are individuals surrounded by hired musicians. I truly don’t know what the future of rock music will look like 20 years from now. As with anything else, the pendulum has to swing back at some point in some fashion, however as of right now the few true bands that I can think of are either 50 years old and have one original member left, or are some of the last bands hanging on still from the 90s grunge movement. I think there is definitely something to be said for having a band of all the same members for years that allows a level of chemistry to be reached that cannot be created with any amount of money. So to make an ending statement, I think “classic rock” is an era that won’t really move much. A similar comparison could be classic muscle cars… people are still and will be (for the rest of my existence at least) driving around in cars from the 60s and 70s. We are in an unprecedented time of technological and societal advancement right now that the trajectory of the future is becoming harder and harder to predict. We are living in some wild times, so why not make some music and have fun?