In what his arguably an album that represents his most mature and noted evolution as a composer, performer and collaborator to date, Trippin’, the newest record released under Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam brand, is not just a watershed release for the artist behind its creation and design, but also the genre that it seeks to revive. Jazz fusion suffered some pretty big commercial blows in the last fifteen or twenty years, but a renewed sense of experimentalism within the indie pop/rock world has led to an increased interest in artists like Robert Miller and his eclectic approach to recording. One needs to look no further than “Lament,” the star track from Trippin’, to understand why Project Grand Slam is quickly becoming one of the most talked about jazz bands in all of underground or mainstream music today.
Everybody has been making throwback records lately. It’s sort of like the sad phenomenon in Hollywood has spread into the recording industry; tons of reboots and remakes are flooding the market and overshadowing inventive, fresh releases from artists who aren’t looking to recreate some sound from the past. I really love classic movies and albums, we all do, but why is it that so many of the smartest voices in entertainment are making the indubitably asinine decision to draw from a well that’s been out of date for decades now? Have they really run out of new ideas? That’s nothing short of laughable when you listen to “Lament,” a song so willfully experimental and ambitiously delivered in crystal clear, colorful high definition audio for us to behold all of its glorious splendor and vivaciousness. Project Grand Slam didn’t get into the studio and decide to make a smooth jazz record from the 1990’s, because that would have been, well, stupid to say the least. They picked up their instruments and dove into progressive postmodernism, embraced the noise, and yielded an ambient pop/jazz track that isn’t like anything else I’ve listened to or will listen to as a music journalist or as a fan. That’s true professionalism right there.
While I would have possibly altered the final mix, just slightly, so that guitarist Tristan Clark’s string sections of “Lament” were a little more jubilant and visible beside Ziarra Washington’s earth shaking vocals, there’s really nothing to complain about with this song or the excellent album it comes from. I won’t even mince words; this is probably my favorite song of the year, and it’s for one really basic, fundamental reason; it’s different. It bravely tries things that other songs aren’t. It doesn’t sound like these musicians are holding back, nothing sounds like an imitation or an altered perspective from what the composer was originally driving at. This is an opulent collection of original, straight up melodies that mesh perfectly with each other. It’s indulgent and yet somewhat modest at the same time. Aesthetically contradictory and thought provoking. I’m in love with “Lament” and the direction that Project Grand Slam are taking their music in, and once this track gets into standard rotation on specialty radio later this year, I’m positive I won’t be the only one.