Project Grand Slam – PGS 7

Bassist and bandleader Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam continue impressing modern audiences with their new full length release simply entitled PGS 7. The thirteen song effort brandishes many of the same outstanding attributes characterizes their previous six efforts but shows the continued growth of the outfit over the course of a baker’s dozen worth of tunes.

First formed in 2007, the band has played throughout the United States and world at large bringing their unique brand of jazz and rock fusion to increasingly large audiences while grounding their instrumental prowess with outstanding vocal and songwriting strengths. They offer up countless outstanding original compositions, but they are also unafraid to cover venerable classics while refashioning them in their own image and never slavishly imitating the originals.

It comes out swinging with a robust opener “Yeah Yeah”. Project Grand Slam, particularly Robert Miller, understand the importance of capturing the listener’s attention with a dazzling start and this song fits the bill, especially thanks to the vocal pyrotechnics supplied by singer Ziarra Washington. Joel Mateo’s drumming lays down a fierce groove, never overplaying, but displaying dazzling combination of finesse and power.

Redemption Road”, the album’s first single release, demonstrates an abiding truth about what we might call “protest” songs – rather than drum beating for a particular issue, the best of such songs focus on the human factor in such situations instead. Washington’s intense singing eschews much of the vocal pyrotechnics we hear on other tracks in favor of more dramatic phrasing. The quasi-shuffle aspects of the arrangement are peppered with some strong dynamics – the build to brief stops in the track is particularly satisfying.

At Midnight” has a relaxed jazzy lilt and some especially tasty keyboard work laced into the performance as well, but guitar work proves to be a bigger highlight thanks to some surprising bite for such a loose-limbed track. Project Grand Slam has the sort of talent tracks like this end up sounding effortless.

Get Out” has even more of the bite we heard in the aforementioned track, particularly from Mateo’s drumming, and the lyrics back that up with a dismissive tone unlike anything else we hear on PGS 7. Washington brings a variety of phrasing twists to bear on the song that makes it even more successful.

Her delicacy as a singer makes “With You” an even more affecting entry in the love song tradition and the shimmering backing from the band underlines her emotive skill.

The ‘In’ Crowd”, originally popularized in 1964 by Dobie Gray, approximates the same mood of the initial version while still brandishing the same gonzo spirit of reimagining covers common to Project Grand Slam’s approach to legendary material. The band is excellent, per usual, but Washington inhabits this song in a way that defines the track.

Project Grand Slam, unlike many bands of their ilk, does not rely on instrumentals, but when they turn to such moments like “Torpedo of Love”, the results are uniformly memorable. Robert Miller’s bass gives this song a warm, round pulse at its center while Mario Castro’s saxophone playing trades musical volleys with the guitar work.

PGS 7 ends with the moving closer “Tree of Life”, a heartbroken piano lament about the Florida school shooting at Parkland High School bringing the album to a stylish finale.

Few familiar with this band will likely disagree that Project Grand Slam has raised the bar with this release – PGS 7’s thirteen songs are indelible and quite unlike anything offered by their peers and contemporaries. Long may they run.

If you want to know more about Project Grand Slam, visit their official website by clicking here. Give them a like on Facebook by clicking here & a follow on Twitter by clicking here.

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