New York City has, naturally, produced a bevy of individual and group talents in popular music. One of two centers for the music industry in North America, the other being Los Angeles, the nation’s largest metropolitan area in the United States has traditionally been the home for cutting edge jazz and R&B influenced acts. Bassist Robert Miller can be included in the ranks of the giants who’ve made this reputation possible. As leader of the outfit Project Grand Slam, Miller grown an unit capable of tremendous musical peaks and fearless invention. Their stylistic range is wide. Ultimately, they sound like a spectacularly conceived clearing house for the most American of musical forms and their expression of jazz, funk, R&B, and blues even makes room under its tent for rock and roll attitude and a beaming sense of fun. This isn’t morose music. Project Grand Slam might have titled their latest effort “The Rescue”, but the new single bristles and sparks with unusual energy. The band’s invocation of traditional forms is far from reverent.
The brio they bring comes through in the first seconds. Forceful guitar playing opens things and the band is off, speeding along with a tangible sense of restraint, yet a clear-eyed sense of the limits they can explore. “The Rescue” is an immaculately arranged piece. There isn’t a single passage that sounds out of place and the performance unfolds with a comforting inevitability that hits all the right notes for experienced music devotees. Novices will find the song equally entertaining. Despite the pedigree of the band’s individual players, the track has a pronounced accessibility that will easily draw many in and leave them with a smile plastered across their faces by the song’s conclusion.
The song’s individual instrumental parts all shine. The guitar work runs from heavily influenced funk passages over to other bruising moments when an outright rock spirit punches through. The rhythm section work is remarkably powerful, but never bulldozes listeners. Bass and drums lock into a seamless dance featuring a number of surprising and rhythmically exciting variations. Organ makes an appearance as well and pours a smattering of octane on an already blazing fire. The added flair from inspired inclusions like this help push an already great song over the top, but the song’s crowning grace comes from the use of brass. The horn playing has a commanding touch that helps the song sing with every ounce of the facility and passion even the best vocalist could have brought to a possible lyric.
Project Grand Slam deserves mentioning as among the best musical acts produced by American culture in the last quarter century. Their body of work isn’t yet extensive, but the quality has been at a level suggesting much more than mere entertaining is guiding the day, but legacy building. Few outfits bring such a commitment to exploring musical possibilities and capturing an audience in the palm of their hands. With “The Rescue”, Project Grand Slam accomplishes both feats with ease.