'Prime' Time

Cincinnati guitarist Brad Myers takes center stage with his debut solo Jazz album

click to enlarge 'Prime Numbers,' the new Jazz album from accomplished Cincinnati guitarist Brad Myers, features several original compositions, as well as versions of Wayne Shorter and Thelonious Monk songs.
'Prime Numbers,' the new Jazz album from accomplished Cincinnati guitarist Brad Myers, features several original compositions, as well as versions of Wayne Shorter and Thelonious Monk songs.

Guitarist Brad Myers could benefit from shaving down his to-do list.

So far in 2015, the multi-faceted guitarist has concluded his graduate studies in Jazz at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, planned and executed a big reunion show for local favorites Ray’s Music Exchange, recorded two last sessions for his solo debut, Prime Numbers, and started scheduling the album’s release and subsequent publicity. Oh, and he also teaches private guitar lessons.

“I’m a major glutton for punishment on top of being a fully practicing procrastinator,” Myers says. “I have a hard time saying no.”

To date, Myers’ propensity toward the affirmative has paid incredible dividends. His CCM connections and long tenure with Ray’s Music Exchange have raised his local profile, resulting in performance/session gigs with the CCM Jazz Ensemble, Dave McDonnell and the Steve Schmidt Organ Trio, while his broad range led him to Aja and Savoy Truffle, local Steely Dan and Beatles tribute bands, respectively. Myers also channels his inner Americana child with Jeremy Pinnell and The 55s and Wild Carrot, and has explored new Jazz directions with the funky Bevadores and the rootsy Fraid Knot.

“It’s a diverse palette, but the challenge going forward is going to be to try and find a way to balance those things,” Myers says. “Some things are going to ebb and flow naturally.”

Beyond the satisfaction of finishing school, Myers’ greatest source of immediate personal pride is the creation and self-release of Prime Numbers. Although the album is coming out under Myers’ name, he’s quick to share the credit with the ace band — vibraphonist Chris Barrick, tenor saxophonist Ben Walkenhauer, acoustic bassist Peter Gemus and drummer Tom Buckley, with spot assistance from trumpeter/flugelhornist Michael Mavridoglou and trombonist Dominic Marino — that powers the album’s nine tracks, a group he’s worked with in various capacities over the past five years.

“There’s a long running Jazz jam session at Stanley’s Pub, and this was one of the core groups there,” Myers says of the quintet. “It’s a Monday night, low-priority — i.e. low-paying — gig so people come and go. But of all of those incarnations, this one was one of the strongest and most playful, and we were all on the same page. We would take gigs and we did a couple of demo recordings, but none of that was original material. When I had some of this stuff together and wanted to record it, it was like, ‘This group has a great camaraderie.’ So the relationships were old, in that sense, but the material was new. I’m looking forward to playing more of this stuff live with them.”

Prime Numbers is comprised of six original compositions and three covers: Wayne Shorter’s “The Big Push,” Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence” and the standard “Invitation,” written by Bronislaw Kaper and Paul Francis Webster. The band has played the covers extensively (Barrick arranged “Push” and “Invitation” for the album) and included them on the album as an enticement to Jazz fans, but the group truly shines on the originals like the delicately powerful “Bentley’s Blues” and the tropical sway of “There is Space for Us.” Prime Numbers’ highlight is the boldly nuanced “Rule of Threes,” a nearly 12-minute noir-ish Jazz jam that bisects the album’s overall arc, a cinematic side journey that is foreshadowed by the first half of the album and naturally leads to the concluding second half.

“When you look at Jazz recordings, as counterintuitive as it seems to confine the performance, you kind of have to. There’s a time factor involved and there’s people’s attention to consider,” Myers says. “From the beginning, that tune was going to be the one we let go longer and be the centerpiece, stylistically slightly different than the other stuff on the recording but also improvisationally different.”

Barrick’s recent move to the Washington, D.C. area means the group on the album likely won’t play out locally too often. But it wasn’t unanticipated. Myers, a Virginia native, notes that he and his bandmates suffer from what he laughingly refers to as “CCM disease,” the tendency for Jazz musicians to relocate here for school and eventually move on.

“We all come here with the magnet being CCM, and people tend to stay because the city grows on you — it’s a great place for all kinds of music — but then you cross that threshold of ‘Am I going to stay long term or move on?’ ” Myers says. “There were a number of factors for Chris to relocate and we’re sorry to see him go, but he’ll be back for the release show.”

Myers was always aware such possibilities existed, even as the focus of the album became more defined. He says the plan initially was to give the quintet a moniker without his name in it, but considering it was his material and he was organizing the recording, the guitarist decided to call the group the Brad Myers Quintet and the album was released under just his name. The high chance for lineup shake-ups was also a factor in the solo crediting.

“(I thought), ‘Is it really the Brad Myers Quintet? Is it always going to be these same people?’ And, of course, with Jazz the answer is no,” he says. “My days with (the revolving lineup of) Ray’s Music Exchange taught me never to rely on having the same personnel. Jazz is a personal journey and you go where it takes you. So we put out the CD under ‘Brad Myers’ for those kinds of reasons.”

Prime Numbers is already generating great reviews, the byproduct of Myers distributing the album to as many media outlets as possible. Though the fanbase for Jazz seems to be shrinking, Myers is heartened by the response so far and the potential for the future.

“I don’t know what exists in terms of Jazz radio anymore, but (the album is) going out to 250-plus stations around the country, so hopefully we’ll see some interest,” Myers says. “There’s podcasts and blogs and all that, but looking at this list, even the smallest towns have a little Jazz station. It’s still America’s music, right? (laughing) Whatever that means.”

BRAD MYERS hosts a free album release concert June 4 at Urban Artifact in Northside. Visit musicbybrad.com and artifactbeer.com for more info.

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