There are a lot of interesting things going on in pop music right now, but as I see it, few acts touring today have the prowess to compete with Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam, whose new record PGS7 is taking the jazz fusion world by storm this summer. Unsurprisingly to those who follow the group, Project Grand Slam’s latest studio affair is littered with powerfully melodic lyricism (delivered by Ziarra Washington) and a bevy of instrumental treasures like “Torpedo of Love” and “Funk Latino” that only add to the jam session-feel of the tracklist. It’s a fully-loaded disc, and it couldn’t be arriving at a much better time of year.
“Python,” “Redemption Road,” “No One’s Fool” and “Take Me” express more with their rhythmic drumbeats than they do with their decadent melodicism, whereas “Get Out!,” “At Midnight” and the vicious, groove-driven “I Don’t Know Why” use plunging basslines and searing sax play to get everyone within earshot clinging to the edge of their seats. Robert Miller is using everything at his disposal in PGS7, whether it be his players or the instruments that they wield like divine weapons, in making a big statement about the current direction of this much-buzzed pet project.
When she steps up to the mic in songs like “Tree of Life” and “With You,” the whole world belongs to Ziarra Washington, who submits some of her most profoundly beautiful vocal work to date in this album. Both of these ballads contain just as much zeal as we hear from her in the single “Redemption Road” and Project Grand Slam’s affectionate cover of “The ‘In’ Crowd,” but there’s something all the more special about their slow-paced melodies as she commands them. She’s become such a powerhouse in her own right, and in some ways is just as much the face of this band as Miller himself is.
I don’t often say this about LPs that are as long and in-depth as this one is, but pretty much every song here would make for a decent single. You don’t have to be the biggest fusion fan on the planet to get into the thick grooving of “Funk Latino” or “At Midnight;” in fact, I think that a lot of this material would play just as well with adult contemporary and experimental rock fans as it would with hardcore jazz fanatics. PGS7 could act as an essential gateway drug for a lot of curious listeners interested in finding a more erudite sound this summer, but even if it didn’t, it’s still a major upgrade from most anything I’ve heard gracing the American Top 40 lately.
Project Grand Slam provide us with an immaculate smorgasbord of colorful crooning and artful rhythm in this most recent release via Cakewalk Records, and if history has taught us anything about this band (and really anything that Robert Miller is involved in), it’s that PGS7 is only a blueprint for whatever is going to come out of their next trip to the recording studio. This is one group that can always be counted on for a rock-solid melody just when we think they’ve gone extinct, and it’s hard to see that reputation changing anytime soon after hearing this awesome LP.