Dynamic Jazz Duo Celebrates Debut Release

Guitarist Brad Myers and bassist Michael Sharfe digitally released 'Sanguinaria (Hopefulsongs),' an understated and intimate recording, in late January.

click to enlarge Brad Myers & Michael Sharfe’s "Sanguinaria (Hopefulsongs)" - Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided
Brad Myers & Michael Sharfe’s "Sanguinaria (Hopefulsongs)"
If you pay any attention to Cincinnati’s Jazz scene, you surely know the names Brad Myers and Michael Sharfe, two of the most active working musicians in the area. The guitarist and bassist (respectively) have incredibly impressive résumés that show that both are not in any way limited to one or two particular modes of Jazz, and both have often worked outside of the genre completely. Their bond is that they are unbounded in their creative pursuits, and when they perform together, their interplay is magical.

Sharfe is Cincinnati’s go-to Jazz bassist, a founding member of the legendary Blue Wisp Big Band nearly 40 years ago who is a member of the progressive Jazz juggernaut PsychoAcoustic Orchestra. He has also worked with several regional orchestras (including the Cincinnati Pops and Symphony Orchestras) and performed alongside everyone from Rosemary Clooney and Joe Lovano to Adrian Belew and Peter Frampton. Sharfe plays with various other musicians and combos regularly around town and he currently leads several ensembles, including the Latin Jazz sextet Mambo Combo and Post Bop group Retro Nouveau.

Myers first became known to local music fans in the late ’90s as a member of the popular and adventurous Jazz/Funk/Jam band Ray’s Music Exchange. He’s currently involved in numerous local projects, including Steve Schmidt’s Organ Trio, Country crew Jeremy Pinnell & the 55’s and jazzy Western Swing act The Midwestern Swing. In 2015, Myers released his first solo album, Prime Numbers, which scored praiseful write-ups from the Jazz press, including a four-star review from DownBeat magazine. 

Those glowing reviews have continued with Myers and Sharfe’s collaborative album, Sanguinaria (Hopefulsongs), which was released digitally in late January. The album is an understated and intimate recording that undeniably accomplishes its stated goal of showcasing the “elements of interplay and synergy (that) are fundamental to the essence of the finest Jazz expression,” particularly in regard to Jazz guitar and bass. 

While dynamic and loaded with solos, the musicians are never flashy, demonstrating their masterful understanding of the music’s foundation by putting the spotlight on the arrangements and the musical conversation between their instruments in tandem. Backed by drummer/percussionists Dan Dorff Jr., Tom Buckley and Marc Wolfley on various tracks, Sanguinaria (Hopefulsongs) finds Myers and Sharfe roaming breezily from the supple Brazilian Jazz on the title track (featuring local keyboard ace Dan Karlsberg on melodica) to the fretless bass/strummed acoustic guitar groove of "Norm’s Ridge” (based on Pat Matheny's "Bright Size Life") to the jubilant swing of their take on Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way.” 

The album is nakedly produced and clutter free, which allows the bass and guitar to be heard with pronounced clarity. While the focus is often on how the pair plays together, there are also numerous moments where each instrument shines separately, which brings attention to the heart and soul Myers and Sharfe each put into their performances. Along with the way his bass often acts as the muscular “lead” instrument, Sharfe’s solos, especially when the bass is the only instrument in the mix, are particularly jaw-dropping.

While Myers and Sharfe are both clearly technical geniuses, Sanguinaria (Hopefulsongs) is a master class in how important feel and emotion are to Jazz. In our modern age of computerized recording perfectionism, the album’s directness and raw presentation is highly refreshing and the artistry in the performances is consistently riveting. 

This Saturday, Sharfe and Myers (joined by Karlberg and drummer Shane Willis) will host an album release celebration at Washington Platform (1000 Elm St., Downtown) at 9 p.m. There is no cover charge, but the venue has a $10 food/drink minimum. Sanguinaria is available to purchase or stream on most digital platforms (including Apple Music and Spotify) and is available on CD at your favorite local-music-friendly record shops and through outlets like Amazon and Bandcamp.

Visit musicbybrad.com for more information.

CONTACT MIKE BREEN: [email protected]

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