Cameron Graves: Seven
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wiping off beads of sweat after you’re done with this one. In little more than a half-hour, Cameron Graves—best known as the masterful pianist in Kamasi Washington’s West Coast Get Down ensemble—creates a formidable nuclear detonation of what’s been dubbed “thrash-jazz.” That description is spot-on: Seven’s 11 tracks are, for the most part, relentlessly intense. While ‘70s fusion bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever and Weather Report are the cited (and most obvious) links, they’re not the whole story. Graves has spoken of his love for the hard rock of Living Colour, Pantera and Slipknot, and there are, for certain, direct lines pointing in those directions, too. But Graves is too much of an original thinker to lift ideas from elsewhere, including himself: Seven is nearly a full 180 from Planetary Prince, his more cerebral, nuanced debut of 2017. Working with guitarist Colin Cook, bassist Max Gerl and drummer Mike Mitchell, with Washington guesting on tenor sax on two tracks, Graves gets right down to business with the opening track, “Sacred Spheres.” It churns and shrieks, all forward momentum until it takes a breather to catch its breath, then it screams a little more. “Red,” midway through, would’ve made any ‘80s hardcore band envious. But there are also touches of classic prog, as in the album-ending “Eternal Paradise” (with a Graves vocal), and the two tunes featuring Washington, “Paradise Trinity” and the title track, stick closer to the more expansive, Get Down sound. Throughout, the musicianship—Graves and drummer Mitchell in particular—is off the charts. Even in the most explosive moments, there’s never any question that these cats are in total command of every note they play.