The release of Kamasi Washington's The Epic in 2016 marked a seismic shift in the jazz landscape and the game-changing arrival of the genre-blurring Los Angeles collective West Coast Get Down. That evolution continues with the release of Planetary Prince, the debut album by visionary pianist, keyboardist, composer and WCGD founding member Cameron Graves. "Cameron Graves' music is vigorous and refreshing. There is an infectious raw energy on Planetary Prince that is coupled with these terrific melodies and blistering solo work, the whole album is energizing," reflects Mack Avenue Records' President Denny Stilwell. In its full realization, the album only furthers that pulse-quickening, consciousness-broadening energy and maintains it over the course of nearly 80 illuminating minutes.
The title of 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. The way that The Urantia Book refracts religious traditions through the lens of science and speculative philosophy has parallels with the ways in which Graves and his West Coast Get Down compatriots have reimagined the jazz lineage with hip-hop and prog rock inflections as well as interstellar ambitions.
Graves makes a direct connection between his music and the book with pieces like "Adam & Eve," "The Lucifer Rebellion" and the title track. The bold, hard-charging opener, "Satania Our Solar System," echoes the book's ominous name for our own neck of the universe. "Andromeda" was sparked by striking images of the Andromeda Galaxy, sister galaxy to the Milky Way as our closest neighbor in the universe; "Isle of Love" is an imagined destination populated by a race of pure love. "El Diablo" takes a slightly more playful approach to the ferocious rhythmic churn of "Satania," this time anchoring it with a buoyant, elastic groove and unleashing Bruner for a supernova solo. "End of Corporatism" asserts a political message by way of a bristling, abstract funk that highlights the interplay of Graves' fleet, fluid keyboard skills and the supple power of his bassists.
The core of the band is made up of fellow West Coast Get Down members, whose musical and personal relationships with Graves stretch back to their high school days: tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington, trombonist Ryan Porter, bassist Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner, and drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. To their ranks are added trumpeter Philip Dizack and bassist Hadrien Feraud, both key members of the groundbreaking modern L.A. jazz scene.
"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 it's own genre. Cameron's music has been inspiring me since I was thirteen years old and it still does today! I'm so glad he's sharing it with the world!" – Kamasi Washington