“Cameron Graves is a 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…” – Kamasi Washington
A member of the game-changing, genre-blurring Los Angeles collective, the West Coast Get Down, pianist CAMERON GRAVES is taking the modern jazz scene by storm. Graves’ debut record on Mack Avenue Records, Planetary Prince, which also serves as Graves’ pseudonym, comes from The Urantia Book, a spiritual tome that emerged from Chicago in the first half of the 20th century and that purports to reveal the truth of humanity through a combination of spiritual and cosmological ideas, including radical retellings of familiar stories from the Bible. This release marked a seismic shift in the jazz landscape, blending elements of Jazz, Classical, Rock and Hip-Hop.
Hendrix and guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan carried The Urantia Book with them on the road. Bassist Jaco Pastorius named his piece “Havona” on Weather Report’s 1977 album Heavy Weather after the universe where, the book says, Paradise is located; Urantia itself is in one of seven mega-universes. Graves, another devoted reader, has named Seven and all of his pieces on the record after references in the doctrine (“Sacred Spheres,” “The Life Carriers,” “Mansion Worlds”). The cosmology is all over Planetary Prince as well.
Mitchell puts it another way, drawing on his experience as “a Christian-raised Black man in the Baptist church.” The basic thrust of The Urantia Book, he says, “is how to love your neighbor better. With that mindset, playing this music, we’re actually helping each other out. It’s a musical way of looking at helping your community.”
As for Seven, despite its delayed release and the hold on his touring plans, Graves believes the serial dramas of 2020 have actually heightened the relevance in the music’s power and tensions. “When I first wrote it,” he says of Seven, “it was a test drive—to see if that sound could compete with the other modern sounds out there, especially Kamasi and Thundercat. Now I feel like it really illustrates the angst out there: the election, cops, the coronavirus.
“People are pissed off,” Graves says, “and here’s a record that understands how they feel. This is the sound of the era.”
The following is an excerpt from SF Jazz…
(Cameron) Graves’s curiosity has led him in esoteric directions. Given the opportunity, he will lecture on Hertz cycles and the spiritual effect of vibrations on the human body; Coltrane and Sun Ra understood such things, he says. Planetary Prince, his 2017 album, is inspired by The Urantia Book, an esoteric tome, 2,000 pages long, that offers an alternative history of creation and humankind’s place in the universe. Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia and Jaco Pastorius are said to have been students of “Urantia,” as is Graves who “wanted to musically illustrate that book” with his album. His song titles reflect its contents: “Satania Our Solar System,” “Adam & Eve.” Its discussions of the “Seven Master Spirits” and the “Seven Grand Divisions” of the universe have pushed him toward playing in seven time, an “amazing time signature to write music in, because the music sounds very high level, as opposed to 4/4 which is a simpler rhythm. Seven is not quite a danceable rhythm. Seven is more of an intellectual rhythm.”
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