Take Five: Watch Cameron Graves Take Orbit, and Follow Several Guitarists Around the Globe

Apr 30, 2018

Cameron Graves, “Planetary Prince”

Kamasi Washington planted the first flag for the West Coast Get Down with his lauded 2015 triple album, The Epic. In its wake came a flotilla of albums by his peers, the strongest and most persuasive of which was Planetary Prince, by the proudly unplaceable pianist Cameron Graves.

The album-release show for Planetary Prince took place at The Troubadour in West Hollywood last spring, with Graves leading a duly stacked band. Washington shared a front line with trombonist Ryan Porter and trumpeter Philip Dizack, while Ronald Bruner, Jr. held down the drum chair. The high voltage and rampaging intensity of the band is more than obvious in this exclusive footage from the show. Graves sets up the album’s title track with a shimmer of arpeggios – and later takes a poised, percussive solo (after some wah-wah guitar exhibitionism by Matt Haze).

This version of “Planetary Prince” will be featured on Planetary Prince: The Eternal Survival EP, due out on Mack Avenue on May 18. Also on the EP are two other tracks from the Troubadour show. (One of those, Joe Henderson’s “Black Narcissus,” features Graves’ mentor, bassist Stanley Clarke, as an honored guest.) Also on the EP are two outtakes from the Planetary Prince studio sessions, a fusion opus called “Titan” and a groove-centric statement called “Kahuna.”

Learn more about Cameron Graves at his website. And hear him on The Checkout.

Leni Stern, “Khavare”

Guitarist and vocalist Leni Stern has already made a personal study of West African folk music, on albums like Africa and Dakar Suite. Her latest is titled 3 – a declaration of faith in the bond she has with bassist Mamadou Ba and percussionist Alioune Faye. But the album, just out on LSR Recordings, lays out all the proof you need. 

Its opening track, “Khavare” (“Party”), incorporates a cooled-out melody against a Senegalese mbalax rhythm. Stern plays a brief solo, unhurried and clear, without overshadowing the cadence of Faye’s sabar drum. Elsewhere on the album, there are tracks that feature Stern’s vocals front and center. But here we get a simple distillation of the trio’s rapport, honed by and large at the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village — where they’ll play an album-release show next Tuesday, May 8.

Roni Ben-Hur and Harvie S, “Prá Machucar Meu Coração”

The guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and the bassist Harvie S have an easeful, understated rapport, with a clear emphasis on connection within a song. That’s true throughout their new album, Introspection, due out on the Jazzheads label this Friday. But it feels especially so on this version of “Prá Machucar Meu Coração,” an Ary Barroso song that appeared on the landmark album Getz/Gilberto.

The album title translates to “to hurt my heart.” True to that spirit, there’s a clear, unostentatious strain of saudade on this track, which has its premiere here.

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, “Pennsylvania 6 6666”

Protest is personal, and omnidirectional, on the scathing new album by Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog. The album, YRU Still Here? (Northern Spy), pushes further into the realm of underground punk than previous releases by this band, which features Ribot on guitar and vocals, Shahzad Ismaily on bass and Ches Smith on drums.

“Pennsylvania 6 6666” is perhaps the track on the album that most inhabits a jazz climate, with its faint, lounge-ready evocation of Son Cubano. (For that reason, the track may remind you of Ribot’s work with Los Cubanos Postizos, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in June.) But the song, loosely inspired by Ismaily’s experience growing up Muslim in central Pennsylvania, conveys a survivor’s hard-won independence. It also has a smart, satisfying trombone solo, by Curtis Fowlkes.

Ceramic Dog plays an album release show on Sunday at Le Poisson Rouge.

Django Festival All-Stars

The Django Reinhardt renaissance has no more steadfast engine than the producer Pat Philips-Stratta, whose Django Festival All-Stars will perform a concert at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night. (The co-presenter on this occasion is the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.) At the heart of the concert is Dorado Schmitt, a leading guitarist in the style, with two of his sons, Samson and Amati. Also in the mix are the accordionist Ludovic Beier, the violinist Pierre Blanchard and a few American guests, like the clarinetist Ken Peplowski and the singer Melody Gardot. For a taste of what’s in store, sample this full concert from MCG Jazz in Pittsburgh last fall.

Forever Django, featuring the Django Festival All-Stars, takes place at 8 p.m. Tuesday, at Carnegie Hall.