Cameron Graves, Kamasi Washington make audacious jazz in ‘Planetary Prince’

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Cameron Graves and his former high school band mates give new jazz-fusion meaning to the other bible, “The Urantia Book.” CREDIT: Photo courtesy of DL Media, used with permission

hen you first listen to Cameron Graves’ title track, “Planetary Prince,” coherent thought is as fleeting as the notes pounded on an invisible marching band parade beat. It’s the first inkling of the lockjaw brilliance to come from keyboardist Cameron Graves.

A founding revolutionary alongside The Epic’s tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington (he’s on this new record!) under the umbrella of the L.A. music as Miles Mosley’s profound arts collective, West Coast Get Down, Graves opens up minds in his new, genre-leveling debut.

Graves and Washington, along with other West Coast Get Down members, proceeded to level the playing field on four pieces from the upcoming Planetary Prince (also Graves’ sometime pseudonym), cooked up and laid out in a marathon 11-hour recording session. And that’s just the first volume. A second is ready to explode later on this year.

The new jazz breed all know each other from high school: Graves, Washington, trombonist Ryan Porter, bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, and drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. Trumpeter Philip Dizack and that insanely good French bassist Hadrien Feraud, also from the modern L.A. jazz scene, join in the recording.

Washington, who’s been receiving his own due, couldn’t be more kind about his friend’s “musical genius. He has an innovative approach to the piano that is completely unique. Cameron’s new album Planetary Prince is an amazing and almost unbelievable combination of modal jazz, romantic era European classical music, and mathematical death metal. A style so cool that it deserves its own genre. Cameron’s music has been inspiring me since I was 13 years old and it still does today! I’m so glad he’s sharing it with the world!”

Intriguingly enough, Planetary Prince takes its name and spiritual theme from the popular “Urantia Book” — an unspoken bible to many outside Christian, church-going theology. Graves himself is a follower of sorts. “That’s a really deep book. A lot of people might think it’s sacrilegious, but it makes so much sense about the breakdown of the universe and deities and Earth and man,” the bandleader said in a recent DL Media press release.

“The Urantia Book” has been universally embraced by the non-religious as the true bible. Allegedly conveyed by aliens who came down to Earth to share truths, the book combines spirituality with science.

The combination of religious tradition with science and philosophy mirrors the band’s fusion of jazz, hip-hop, and progressive rock. But forget conversion, Graves leaves the interpretation of the whole matter to the individual musicians in the band. “I don’t communicate the Urantia ideas to the band,” he explained in the press release. “They just know that my song titles are kind of weird but the music is really cool. I like to write a lot in odd rhythms, especially in seven, which takes the music somewhere else and lets the cats build off of that.”

Graves plays keys on Washington’s The Epic. He and his West Coast Get Down band mates have been getting down to a new sound based off a mutual love of Coltrane-jazz, hip-hop, rock, and metal since their freshmen year at Locke High School in L.A., their Young Jazz Giants debut at 16, all the way up to 2007 with their weekly series with Mosley at the Piano Bar.

The four-track EP originally dropped on June 10, 2016. Graves expanded his Planetary Prince EP into a full-blown album this year for a Feb. 24 release.

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