“We’re hear from the U.S.A.” Robert Miller so casually announces before slicing through the buzzing audience members with a throttling bassline that gives way to the sensational vocal stylings of Ziarra Washington in “I’m So Glad,” the third track from Project Grand Slam’s all new live album Greetings from Serbia. Recorded at the 2018 Nisville Jazz Festival, where Project Grand Slam rocked a packed audience aching to sample from their sterling catalogue of jazz fusion nuggets, Greetings from Serbia is a magnificent profile of the Miller-fronted vehicle’s unique sound. Through ten songs that include a few fascinatingly original covers that borrow from the experimentalism of their predecessors while also venturing into uncharted waters, the band guides us on a journey into the heart of angular music theory the likes of which I haven’t heard in the modern jazz age. Bittersweet balladry finds its way into the setlist through the free-spirited sax of “Lament,” while “No No No” and “Fire” invite us to experience the depth of their rock influences without any artificial barriers to get between us and the full scope of their tonality. This is one of the most talked about releases of this coming January, and just one listen to any of this record’s intriguing tracks will likely be enough to leave even Project Grand Slam’s harsher critics begging for more.
Greetings from Serbia, like most live albums, is a very emotional record that doesn’t try to perpetuate a smokescreen of enigmas and studio schemes to wow us or make an important statement. “I’m So Glad,” “Free” and “Gorilla” come to us unframed, unpolished and totally lacking the shape of streamlined rock singles, and yet they’re so unbelievably tight and arranged with such precision that referring to them as anything other than fine-tuned masterpieces just wouldn’t be accurate. The emotion that’s ever-present here isn’t conveyed to us through the intensity of Washington’s vocals or even in the wallop of the bass or percussion; it’s via the subtle nuances in the arrangements. The interplay between the instruments tells the real story of this album; a tale of these musicians’ undying love for their craft, highlighted in the absurdly well-detailed structure of their performances. Nothing in Greetings from Serbia is recycled, and if you were expecting merely “live versions” of Project Grand Slam songs, you might find yourself more than blown away by the ambitiousness of this LP.
It’s still early to tell, but my gut tells me that this record is going to be one of the bigger live albums of 2019, in or out of the jazz underground. Robert Miller’s latest project has picked up steam so quickly in comparison to the group’s peers, but when I listen to the smolder of the string dueling going on just beneath the surface of “The Queen’s Carnival” it becomes quite clear to me why. 2018 was a rather underwhelming year in popular music, but Project Grand Slam persevered and ended up recording one of the finest live albums of the late 2010’s without ever getting caught up in the mess of industrial politics that have sank some of the brightest young stars trying to break through to the mainstream. I can’t wait to hear what 2019 holds for PGS – so far, it’s even better than what previous years have produced.
by Jodi Marxbury
The music of Project Grand Slam has been heard all over the world due to the promotional services offered by Danie Cortese Entertainment & Publicity. Learn more here – http://www.daniecorteseent.com/