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Seven

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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,” Graves points out. 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, the generation of 1970s 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.’”

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Cameron Graves

Product#: MAC1123|Released: 02/24/17

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Planetary Prince

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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,” Graves points out. 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, the generation of 1970s 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: saxophonist Kamasi Washington, who guests on two of Graves’ 11 new tracks; 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 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 and 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.

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.”

News

If You Thought Kamasi Washington Got Cosmic, Wait ‘Til You Hear Cameron Graves   01.13.17

"It comes off somewhere between McCoy Tyner and The Time, Chopin and J Dilla — with an extra layer of mystic clashes between celestial princes of good and evil. It’s the score that Urantia always deserved.” - LA Weekly

Cameron Graves Planetary Prince [Pitchfork]   01.13.17

Cameron Graves, the pianist for Kamasi Washington and a founding member of the West Coast Get Down collective, makes his own searing mark with an enrapturing and assured solo album.

West Coast Get Down, El Rey Theatre (feat. Cameron Graves)   01.13.17

Pianist Cameron Graves was a standout, and his album “Planetary Prince”, featuring more of the Get Down, will be out in the coming weeks. Mosley’s parents also got a big shout before launching into “Abraham” (Mosley’s given first name), the record’s other single, with Graves’ “ring tone intro” setting off the piece.

Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince review – Kamasi Washington’s pianist cranks it up   01.13.17

His contrastingly romantic and ardent chord-work suggest what Rachmaninoff might have sounded like if he’d played in a contemporary fusion band.

Los Angeles’s Thriving Jazz Scene Produces Four New Albums   01.13.17

Cameron Graves, ‘Planetary Prince’ - If you’re looking for another fix of the same stuff that “The Epic” delivered, the debut album from the pianist Cameron Graves is your answer.

Cameron Graves – Planetary Prince   01.13.17

"Thrilling technicality, earnest passion and an acute sense of style justify even the record’s over-the-top moments. Planetary Prince is an 80-minute explosion of musical ideas that reflects the musicians’ decades of prior collaboration.”

Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince review – Kamasi Washington’s pianist cranks it up   01.13.17

Cameron Graves' debut release embodies a forward looking, jazz-grounded instrumental music. He leads us on a challenging and intoxicating musical journey of imagination.

Cameron Graves Planetary Prince   01.13.17

Cameron Graves is a master, laying intricate melodic lines over driving drums and cymbal chokes. “Satania Our Solar System,” the opener, is devilish.

Cameron Graves Is LA’s Cosmic Metalhead Jazz Prince and We Have His New Song   01.13.17

Graves has been playing music for over three decades, bringing a unique approach to the piano. His skill is matched by a fluid, imaginative style drawing from multiple genres. Graves' father, a singer/producer/keyboard player, initiated him into music at the age of four.

10 New Artists You Need to Know: March 2017   01.13.17

Planetary Prince presents all the essentials: a classically poised introduction, a writhing beat equally beholden to slick funk and prog-metal, serpentine electric bass lines, and lean, tight jazz-combo interaction.

Cameron Graves “Planetary Prince”   01.13.17

From drums & bass through to trumpet, every instrument is performed with virtuosity & sounds crisper than a granny smith – this is electrifyingly, skin-pricklingly brilliant.

New Jazz Releases from Alex Cline and Cameron Graves Draw on Spiritual Inspiration   01.13.17

His compositions drill down into grooves and then suddenly spring open, like the stunning “Satania” and the herky funk of “End of Corporatism.”

Hey! Listen to Cameron Graves!   01.13.17

If the sheer virtuosic piano work isn’t enough for you, the lineup backing Cameron Graves on Planetary Prince will more than make up for that. Besides the obvious talent of Kamasi Washington on tenor, there’s also Thundercat and Hadrien Faraud rocking the bass.

Cameron Graves, Planetary Prince Album Release, The Troubadour   01.13.17

Last week, it was pianist Cameron Graves turn to front this band of one/band of many, for the drop of his stellar CD, “Planetary Prince” on Mack Avenue Records (disclaimer, more astronomical adjectives could follow).

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