Experiencing Project Grand Slam
Bruce Von Stiers
To date, I think I have reviewed three albums by Project Grand Slam. About a dozen years ago I reviewed the band's first effort titled Play. Two years ago I reviewed Made In New York, which featured a killer rendition of the Jimi Hendrix song fire with vocals by Kat Robichaud. Then, last September, I reviewed their album The Queen's Carnival. That album featured Lucy Woodward in a rousing rendition of The Kinks song, You Really Got Me. That rendition, with Lucy on vocals, apparently received a stamp of approval from Ray Davies of The Kinks.
Robert Miller is the force behind Project Grand Slam. Not to sit on the laurels of the praise of the previous albums, Robert has once again gathered up the band and put together another cool jazz fusion album. This one brings forth an image of jazz fusion at its best, with a mixture of jazz, funk, Latin, modern rock and classic rock music. The title of the new album, appropriately enough, is The PGS Experience.
The new album has four live performance tracks and five studio tracks. It has a play time of forty minutes. The album was produced by Robert and Lou Holtzman. Lou's credits include albums by Clark Terry, Sonya Robinson and Project Grand Slam's previous album, The Queen's Carnival.
On the album Robert plays the electric bass. He is joined by Project Grand Slam alum Mario Castro, Marcello Casagrandi and Joel Mateo. Mario is on sax, while Marcello plays keys and Joel is the drummer. Also helping out are Tristan Clark and Flavio Silva on guitar and Guillermo Barron Rios on percussion. Tristan, Flavio and Guillermo are all well-known musicians.
On a few of the tracks on the album there are vocals are done by Ziarra Washington. Although she is a relative newcomer, Ziarra has had a pretty good following on YouTube with her Singer In The Closet music videos
And in what I deem as a super cool bonus for the album, there is a special guest musician. That musician is Mindi Abair, one of my all-time favorite saxophone players.
First up on the album is Metro Shuffle. It is a fast paced funk groove featuring some fantastic sax by Mindi. There is just something about the music and Mindi's styling that makes this a really cool way to start out the album.
Robert has a unique way of re-envisioning songs that others have made famous. One such song is from Phish called Free. The original song is a slow and easy rock ballad. In the Project Grand Slam rendition of the song, the mood is changed into a slick jazz groove. This is the first song on the album that features vocals by Ziarra. Her voice is great on the song and there is some tough guitar and sax backing her up.
Fishin' is an original composition by Robert. It has kind of a laid back Caribbean tone to it. This is the second song the album that features Mindi. It is the kind of song where you can almost imagine yourself sitting on the beach, a drink in your hand, watching a beautiful sunset.
That is followed up by Hollywood. It is a fast paced groove that will definitely be having you wiggling around in your seat. But just when things get going good, the song has about a thirteen second slowdown that makes you think, what? Then it kicks back up and finishes the groove out really strong. This is a killer funk groove that makes good use of all the musician's talents.
Later in the album there is another re-envisioning of a famous song. This one is the Cream song, I'm So Glad. Once again featuring vocals by Ziarra, this is an extra tough rendition of the song. Great vocals and guitar work on the song make this a really cool rendition.
The live tracks make up the remainder of the album. The first of those is called Gorilla, which is a really good, rock infused jazz funk piece.
Then there is You Really Got Me. Although on the album version was sung by Lucy Woodward, Ziarra makes it her own.
There is also a live version of the title track from the last album, The Queen's Carnival. It is a fun, fast paced Island themed song.
The album closes with a live rendition of the Jimi Hendrix song, Fire. On the album version Kat Robichaud killed it. I was wondering if Ziarra could emulate the smoldering sensuality of Kat's vocals. Instead of that, Ziarra made it her own with a mix of toughness and haughtiness.
Robert Miller and his Project Grand Slam continue to surprise and entertain me. Too cool original compositions and ultra-slick re-envisioning of hit rock songs makes this band, and this album, well worth experiencing.
The PGS Experience was released a few days ago. You can find it at your favorite online retailer and selected traditional retailers.
You might also be able to catch Project Grand Slam in concert. They are currently opening for acts such as Blues Traveler.
To learn more about The PGS Experience and Project Grand Slam, visit http://projectgrandslam.com
They also have a band page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/projectgrandslam/
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© 2017 Bruce E Von Stiers