Grooving In New York
Bruce Von Stiers
I've reviewed the jazz fusion band Project Grand Slam before. I've really enjoyed the group's music. So I was really interested their newest album. Was it going to be as good as the band's previous work? I listened to the new album and I wasn't disappointed. It was fantastic.
The album is Made In New York. It has nine songs and a play time of thirty-six minutes.
The members of Project Grand Slam are Robert Miller, Marcello Casagrandi, Nathan Cepelinski, Ben Sher and Joel E. Mateo. Robert is the bass player and leader of the group. His work stretches all the way back to the 1970's, when he was a founding member of the Boston area jazz fusion band, Sagov. Robert is also a composer and founded the independent record label, 32 Records. Keyboardist Marcello is originally from Cuba where he studied at the Havana Music Conservatory. Eventually he attended and graduated from the Berklee College of Music. Besides Project Grand Slam, Marcello has worked with Ray Santisi, Hal Cook, The Funk Junkies and many others. Another Berklee graduate, saxophonist Nathan has composed scores for Lifetime and Syfy cable network productions. Nathan has worked with people such as Bob Mintzer, Roy Hargrove and Terri Lyne Carrington. An associate professor at the Berklee College of Music, guitarist Ben is the leader of his own band, the Brazilian Jazz group Tudo Bem. He has also played with the likes of Gunther Schuller and Deborah Latz. Joel is the drummer for the group. His work includes playing with international artists Tego Calderon, Pedro Martinez, Mitch Frohman and several others.
Joining the members of Project Grand Slam on two of the songs on the album is Kat Robichaud. She was featured on the fall 2013 season of The Voice. Although she was eliminated in that competition, Kat has done well for herself. Before The Voice, Kat was the vocalist for a group called The Design. These days Kat has another group, Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits. This year the group released a self-titled album.
All of the songs on the album, with one exception, were composed by Robert Miller. Two of the songs were recorded live at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City.
The first song is New York City Groove. The title says it all. It is a very cool, head bopping, toe-tapping tune. It is also the first song on the album to feature the vocals by Kat Robichaud. Her vocals fit well with the music, lyrical with just a hint of toughness.
The Winner is the second song. Starting with a simple guitar groove, the song moves forward with a strong sax presence. It too has a head-bopping, toe-tapping beat. There is a really cool guitar and keys solos in the middle of the song.
Sliding into a more subtle groove is the song Around The Horn. This front end of the song has the saxophone highlighted. Then the guitar kicks in and there is some really cool keyboard too.
The Gift (Juliet's Song) is a short, soft and gentle interlude.
From there, the album transitions right into the smoking hot rendition of the Jimi Hendrix song, Fire. It is the other song to feature the vocals of Kat Robichaud. Kat's vocals here are sultry with a seductive toughness. Although this is a jazz groove arrangement of the classic Hendrix rock song, it is the best rendition I've ever heard.
Boston Common is a very busy song. It made me think of a busy urban street and the people hurrying along on it.
Because She Said So-Live begins slow and easy. It then moves into a slightly faster groove with a lot of sax and drum. It is one of the songs that was recorded live at the Blue Note Jazz Club.
Cakewalk For Debra is the other song that was recorded live at the Blue Note Jazz Club. Robert prefaces the song by saying he wrote it for his girlfriend (who later became his wife). It is a slower groove song that where you can almost imagine the playfulness of romancing the girl.
The album closes with an instrumental version of New York City Groove. Although the instrumental version was fine, the version with the Kat Robichaud vocals was excellent.
Made In New York has the just the right kind of music for a jazz fusion groove album. There is great guitar and cool keyboard and drums. Even though I didn't mention the bass playing earlier, it supports the other instruments well. And as I am a huge fan of sax music, I really enjoyed it on the album as well. But I guess what I liked most about the album were the two songs with vocals by Kat Robichaud.
Speaking of Kat Robichaud, she filmed music videos for her two songs on the album. The first, New York City Groove, features the band along with Kat. The second, Fire, is a sizzling video that features Kat and a lot of other sultry, seductive women.
Made In New York will officially be out on October 16 th . But the singles Fire and New York City Groove are already available on iTunes. Portions of the proceeds from the sales of the New York City Groove single are being donated to New York City based arts and cultural non-profit organizations whose main recipients are underprivileged and inner-city children.
Look for the album at iTunes, amazon.com and other fine online and traditional music retailers.
You can find out more about Project Grand Slam and Made In New York at the band's official web site. That site can be found at http://projectgrandslam.com/ .
The band also has a Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/ProjectGrandSlam
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© 2015 Bruce E Von Stiers