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Prime Numbers, The Debut Album by Jazz Guitarist Brad Myers

Brad Myers Prime NumbersPrime Numbers is the debut album of Brad Myers, a guitarist who’s among the busiest and most high-profile jazz musicians in Cincinnati. The album, which comes out today, has something in common with midcentury modern furniture—sleek, with clean lines, it’s marked by clarity and focus, with an understated postbop coolness. It makes sense that, on this album that primarily consists of the bandleader’s originals, two of the three covers, though decades old, could not seem more modern. Wayne Shorter “The Big Push” and Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence” will forever sound fresh. It’s interesting to hear a tune composed by Monk—who was, after all, a pianist—played without a piano. Here the highly impressionistic and typically sparse harmonic coloring is provided by both Myers and the vibes player Chris Barrick. Without block chords on the piano to potentially gunk up the works, the musicians have all kinds of wiggle room, and their creative use of space takes us to the heart of Monk. The strongest performance may be “Rule of Threes”; it’s certainly the most ambitious, a sprawling and fractured narrative that clocks in at 11:40. The lineup on Primary Numbers is primarily a quintet that includes the tenor saxophone work of Ben Walkenhauer; the tenor can be the heaviest of horns, but here it shares the introspective and lyrical vibe that characterizes the rest of the ensemble. Jazz guitar has a healthy tradition of colorists with a feather-light touch; here Jim Hall and Bill Frisell would seem like influences. Myers may be heard to best effect on his own “You Are Here,”, a sweet ballad that inspires some of his warmest playing. Prime Numbers is a damn good album, and it helps underscore the paradigm shift that has recently taken place in Cincinnati. Last year things certainly looked bleak for jazz in these here parts. The increasingly chaotic Blue Wisp ultimately closed, and we had cause to wonder if the Blue Wisp Big Band would ever find a comfortable home. Well, guess what? Urban Artifact is a hip new venue that hosts lots of jazz, including, every Wednesday, the Blue Wisp Big Band; you can read about it in this previous blog entry. A true tenor heavyweight, recent greater Cincinnati transplant JD Allen released Graffiti, a smoking new album, on Savant in mid-May. The Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame was just launched, and Ran Blake just paid tribute to the great composer and musician George Russell, who grew up in Walnut Hills, played in jazz clubs here while in high school, and went on to change jazz history. Blake’s album is called Ghost Tones, and you can count on it and the new JD Allen to show up at the top of best-of lists at the end of 2015. Cincinnati has an amazing jazz history, and it also has a future. If you want a taste of both, check out Brad Myers’ CD release show at Urban Artifact this Thursday; here’s a link to the event. The show is free, but there will be plenty of CDs for sale. Here’s a live performance of “Spherical,” one of the cuts on Prime Numbers: