Sounds Like: The house pianist for the party at the end of the universe, pulling in signals from John Coltrane, J Dilla, Meshuggah and points beyond.
For Fans of: Kamasi Washington, Miles Davis, Stanley Clarke, Thundercat
Why You Should Pay Attention: A founding member of the West Coast Get Down collective that thundered to global renown with the release of Kamasi Washington's The Epic, Cameron Graves, 35, cut his teeth playing the classic works of Bach, Schubert and Chopin before he hit Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. There, he bonded with Washington over a shared love of John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and the mainstream jazz canon. "I met him when I was around 15, and we both would just hang out and listen to Coltrane all day, and practice with each other," says Graves, "just 'shed on tunes like 'Giant Steps' and 'A Love Supreme.'"
Still, spare hours spent shredding out Van Halen and Slipknot tunes on guitar came in handy during Graves's stint in Jada Pinkett Smith's nu-metal project, Wicked Wisdom. Since then, he's also held his own alongside one of the heaviest pioneers of fusion jazz, bass virtuoso Stanley Clarke. Mix up those experiences, stir in a taste for Prince's revolutionary funk and J Dilla's mixing-board skills, then add a twist of cosmic insight gleaned from The Urantia Book, an esoteric tome that purports to sort out the whole of creation. The result is Planetary Prince, Graves's debut album as a bandleader, newly released on the Mack Avenue label.
He Says: "In sports, we always revere the most talented person on the field, the most talented person on the court, and it's through their extreme skills that we end up revering that person, and creating a celebrity out of that person. And that is exactly what my mission is, personally: to do that in music, to showcase the virtuoso and to try to make the virtuoso a celebrity again, because I think that's been lost in our society with all the … I kind of call it 'plastic music.' It's brought the bar down in terms of the talent and the quality of the playing."
Hear for Yourself: "Satania Our Solar System," the opening track on 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. Steve Smith