AVAILABLE NOW: Cameron Graves’ Single From Forthcoming Album “Seven”
– A.K.A. The Planetary Prince –
Brings Thrash-Jazz to the Universe with Seven
Album Features Special Guest Kamasi Washington
Alongside Guitarist Colin Cook, Bassist Max Gerl, and Drummer Mike Mitchell
First Single, “Red,” Available Now; Album Coming February 19, 2021 via Artistry Music
“The house pianist for the party at the end of the universe,
pulling in signals from John Coltrane, J Dilla, Meshuggah
and points beyond.” – Rolling Stone
“Cameron Graves is LA’s Cosmic Metalhead Jazz Prince.” – VICE Noisey
“…a smart, restless keyboardist with abundant
credits in jazz and R&B…” – The New York Times
“…enraptured, assured, grandiose in moments, but
never self-aggrandizing.” – Pitchfork
“…sounds like the best elements of Weather Report, Keith Jarrett,
McCoy Tyner, Austin Peralta and Flying Lotus.” – LA Weekly
Check Out “Red” On These Playlists
Tidal — Heavy Metal Bebop & Punk Jazz
Apple Music — Jazz Currents
Spotify — All New Jazz
Pianist, composer and vocalist Cameron Graves calls the music he’s architected for his new Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Music Group release thrash-jazz, though that only begins to tell the story. Yes, upon an initial listen, the juggernaut metal force and hardcore precision of Seven can knock you back. After all, Graves grew up in metal-rich Los Angeles, headbanging to Living Colour as a kid and, after immersing himself in jazz and classical studies for years, reigniting his love for hard rock through records by Pantera, Slipknot and his most profound metal influence, Swedish titans Meshuggah.
But listen closer to Seven, Graves’ follow-up to 2017’s Planetary Prince (which Pitchfork called a “rousing debut”). “Los Angeles is a melting pot of everything,” His father, Carl Graves, was a great soul singer and you can hear his imprint, along with the likes of Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding, on “Eternal Paradise,” which marks the younger Graves’ vocal debut. Throughout the album, bassist Stanley Clarke’s generation of jazz-rock fusion pioneers is a source of inspiration. “Our mission is to continue that legacy of advanced music that was started by bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report and Return to Forever,” Graves says. “That was instilled in us by the masters. Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock—these guys sat with us and told us, ‘Look, man, you’ve got to carry this on.’”
The “us” that Graves refers to would include the core quartet on Seven, as well as the West Coast Get Down, the now well-known expansive yet fraternal clique of high school friends who became some of the most influential jazz-rooted musicians to emerge in recent decades and played on Graves’ debut Planetary Prince: saxophonist Kamasi Washington, who guests on two of Graves’ 11 new tracks on Seven; bassists Thundercat and Miles Mosley; drummers Ronald Bruner Jr. and Tony Austin; and others. Growing up, the West Coast Get Down absorbed the spiritual jazz of John Coltrane, the daring hip-hop experimentalism of J Dilla and the rap and pop of the day, and all of those touchstones resonate throughout Seven. Early on, Graves’ jazz-obsessed pals would scoff at the pianist’s taste for heavy music, but not for long. “I brought Meshuggah to the game, and you can’t talk smack on Meshuggah. They are supreme musicians,” Graves says, chuckling. “It became legit after that amongst the L.A. scene.”
But beyond its fearless new musical alchemy, Seven allows Graves – a.k.a., the Planetary Prince – to further explore his deep passion for a number of interrelated topics in and around theology, astronomy, astrology and martial arts. A devoted student of the still-mysterious Urantia Book and its mission to, as Graves puts it, “explain the deepness of the spiritual and the physical universe together,” he named his sophomore album for the overwhelming presence and impact of seven throughout global spiritual traditions. (Not surprisingly, Graves has a penchant for writing in odd time signatures, particularly seven).
“There’s always a seven and there’s always a trinity,” he explains, before going on to detail another omnipresent triptych. “In all of the galaxies in the universe, everything operates off of the trinity of Thought, Love and Action,” Graves says. Just as this new music invites repeat listens in a kind of decoding process, Graves’ song titles – “Sacred Spheres,” “Paradise Trinity,” “Super Universes,” “Mansion Worlds” and more – will inspire a sort of bewilderment that leads to an ongoing curiosity.
A testament to his fervor and deft technique, Graves leads his thrash-jazz assault from the acoustic piano rather than the synth, though he gets powerhouse help from a band he can’t help but brag about. He calls Colin Cook, whose harmonically ingenious yet blindingly fast playing can evoke Allan Holdsworth, a “guitar god, man. I mean, chops for days and musical knowledge beyond his years.” Graves has developed a telepathic connection with drummer Mike Mitchell during their time together on the road with Stanley Clarke. Still, his versatility and far-reaching mastery can astound the pianist. “No one has the over-the-top chops that he has; no one has the timing and syncopation skills that Mike possesses,” Graves says. “He can play hip-hop, jazz. I’ve seen him play every style of swing like Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, and Elvin Jones. But I’ve always wanted to hear Mike play rock and metal,” Graves adds, “and this was my chance.” Through Mitchell, Graves hooked up with bassist Max Gerl, whose brilliant ears and impeccable time-feel place him in a striking legacy of bassists that the pianist has collaborated with, among them Thundercat, Hadrien Feraud, Mosley and, of course, Clarke.
A soul-deep affinity for the peers who join him on the bandstand has been a continuing theme throughout Graves’ career. He met his musical comrades in the West Coast Get Down as a freshman in high school, and they nurtured their game-changing chemistry at a series of regular haunts that have entered the jazz lore: Doboy’s Dozens, 5th St. Dick’s, the Piano Bar in Hollywood, where the visibility, growing crowds and possibilities just seemed to surge.
Graves, like the rest of the West Coast Get Down, saw his profile explode following the 2015 release of Kamasi Washington’s debut, The Epic, easily on the short list of the most celebrated jazz releases of the 21st century. Since then, the collective has seen its members carve out their own identities, through their own acclaimed bands, solo releases and tours. “It’s beautiful,” Graves says of the last few years. “Those are my brothers.” With his actual brother, Taylor, Graves produced and performed pop music that earned them a major-label signing with MCA under Randy Jackson. Their recent collaborations included the score and related soundtrack album for Michelle Obama’s Becoming documentary for Netflix, which was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards including Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special (Original Dramatic Score).
Camaraderie aside, some of the most interesting plans Graves has for the material on Seven have to do with solo performance. He includes one stunning solo-piano piece, “Fairytales,” but explains that the music was conceived to achieve varying impacts using different formats – contrasting performance situations he’ll no doubt explore in the months ahead. “This project has two different characters,” he says. “When you play these songs on solo piano, they sound just like a contemporary classical song, like Debussy or Ravel. But when you play them with the band, it turns into this hard-rock record.”
Cameron Graves · Seven
Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Music Group · Release Date: February 19, 2021
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