Cool New Fusion Jazz From Project Grand Slam
Bruce Von Stiers
Last year I reviewed the album, Made In New York, by the jazz fusion band Project Grand Slam. I've been a fan of this band for a while now. They keep coming up with some pretty cool music for their albums.
This year finds the band with a brand new album. The title of this album is The Queen's Carnival. The album was released on the Cakewalk Records label and distributed by CEN/RED Distribution.
The album has eleven songs and a play time of forty-five minutes. It was produced by Robert Miller and Lou Holtzman. Engineering on the album was done by Holtzman and Duff Harris.
Project Grand Slam is an ensemble group that was formed several years ago by Robert Miller. From the 1970's where he helped found the jazz fusion band Sagov to now, Miller has not only composed a lot of music, but also founded an indie record label, 32 Records. A bass player, Miller provides the bass music for the group and for this album. Miller wrote and arranged all of the songs on the album except one. I'll get to that one later.
Joining Miller on the album are Marcello Casagrandi, Mario Castro, Joel E. Mateo and Yasser Tejeda. A native of Cuba, Casagrandi graduated from the Berklee School of Music and has played with Hal Cook and The Funk Junkies among other bands. He does the keyboards for the album. He also played on the band's previous album, Made In New York. Someone else who played on the previous album is Joel E. Mateo. As with the previous album, Mateo provides the percussion and drums here. Some of the groups he's played with include Tego Calderon and Mitch Frohman. Another Berklee alum is Yassar Tejeda. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Tejada plays guitar on the album. He leads the group Palotre and has worked with several named artists. Saxophonist Mario Castro has his own quintet with an added string section. He does the sax work on this album.
First out of the gate is Beyond Forever. It is a sax driven, cool funk jazz piece. But just when things settle down, there is some killer rock styled guitar that slides in.
For the second entry on the album, there is The Rescue. It is a high energy piece that will have you moving around quickly. It was the first release from the album and has gotten considerable radio play.
Something that Miller likes to do is take an iconic rock song and take it to another level. On the band's last album, Miller did a fantastic arrangement of the Jimi Hendrix song, Fire, with hot, sultry vocals by Kat Robichaud. On this new album, Miller took another iconic song to a whole new level. This time out, the song is the classic The Kinks tune, You Really Got Me. The vocals this time were done by Lucy Woodward. You might remember Lucy's song Dumb Girls or the song she wrote called (“There's Gotta Be) More To life” that was a hit for Stacie Orrico. Lucy provides smoky, throaty vocals for the song that makes it really cool. And the music moves towards a funk style that gives a very unique spin to the song. Miller must have done something right with the arrangement because Ray Davies of The Kinks heard it and gave his approval.
The title track, The Queen's Carnival, finds itself in fourth position on the album listing. It is a fun and energetic song that takes a Rio carnival sound and adds a few slices of funk to it.
The song Gorilla is a smile effecting, toe-tapping rock infused jazz fusion piece.
New Folk Song has definitely an alt rock flavor to it. With a touch of Scottish Highlands and some mellow folk music weaved into it, the song is very unique.
It's The Beat has a late ‘60's kind of rock funk sound.
Slap Shot moves things back into a groove kind of mood. I couldn't help but start tapping my feet while listening to this one.
For Lucky Seven, a lot of horn is mixed in with the guitar to make this a fun and slick fusion driven tune.
The next to last song on the album is a strictly instrumental version of You Got Me. You get to hear what Miller's vision of the song is without Lucy's vocals. I liked the vocal version a bit better but this was cool too.
The final song on the album is a soft and easy piece called Lullaby For Julesy.
If there's one thing that I have learned about Robert Miller and Project Grand Slam, it's that they keep coming up with fantastic music with a unique sound. This new album presents the listener with slick jazz fusion with a rock influence that isn't likely to be heard elsewhere. Even though the band has been compared to Dave Koz and Snarky Puppy, it pretty much stands on its own. I really liked the new album, but I never had any doubts that I wouldn't.
The Queen's Carnival is available on iTunes and other digital and traditional formats.
Check Project Grand Slam out at http://projectgrandslam.com/ The band also has a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/projectgrandslam/
Back to the BVS Reviews Main Menu
© 2016 Bruce E Von Stiers