CD review

Cameron Graves – ‘Seven’

Cameron Graves – Seven
(Mack Avenue ART7066. CD Review by John Bungey)

Batten down the sub-woofer, hold on to your trousers … here comes thrash jazz – 11 songs in a tumultuous 33 minutes. Thrash jazz? That’s what Cameron Graves, keyboardist with LA saxophone star Kamasi Washington, terms these high-speed, high-velocity forays. Imagine Metallica having a crack at cosmic Return To Forever.

Graves and Washington, friends from high school, honed their craft in the West Coast Get Down collective. And just as the saxophonist’s music pays its dues to jazz past, these brief blasts are propelled by drum fusillades from Mike Mitchell that echo Billy Cobham and Lenny White in their fusion pomp. The space-themed artwork and song titles (Sons of Creation, Super Universes) also nod to Chick Corea’s electric RTF.

Graves, however, feels little need to emulate that group’s dreamier interludes. As guitarist Chris Cook unleashes crunchy riffs and drums and bass motor away, Graves’s piano sits atop the inferno delivering themes that would often sound breezily easygoing in calmer company. Rarely has the acoustic piano had such roaring accomplices. After some florid piano arpeggios opening track four, the title tune, the group does briefly simmer down; it’s one of two tracks to which Washington adds trenchant and bluesy tenor. However, there’s still a mood of heroic drama – you can imagine a video shot atop a mountain with plenty of breeze ruffling everyone’s hair. Then it’s back to guitar riffage with just a pause for Fairytales, a romantic piano solo, reflecting Graves’s classical influences, that puzzingly fades just as the drama is building.

Next comes Master Spirits, which is short, sharp and angry, before Mansion Worlds, which is short, sharp and angrier still. Graves sings on the closer, Eternal Paradise, sounding a good deal more composed than any man has a right to be after living through this whirlwind.

It will be interesting to see, on that happy day when gig-going resumes, who goes to shows. Will it be jazz types going to have their teeth rattled or the metal brigade? Whichever, if you’re into headbanging in ferocious time signatures, Seven might just make your month.

Seven is released on 19 February 2021

LINK: Cameron Graves at Mack Avenue Records

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