Project Grand Slam – The Rescue
While bassist and bandleader Robert Miller is known as a high-minded jazz afficiando and one of the best players in the genre today, his influences span much wider. The British Invasion had a pivotal effect on his musical education, like it did with so many other young men and women his age, and provided much of the initial spark that pushed Miller into pursuing bass guitar. Listeners can hear a lot of the same timeless, youthful passion on Project Grand Slam’s latest single, “The Rescue”. The song never risks self-indulgence and, while it chases after familiar ends musically, it does so with rare style and deceptive sophistication. The cliché about a band playing tightly together is no cliché here. Project Grand Slam are aptly name – every outing from this band steams ahead and over listeners with tremendous skill and power.
The song is aptly titled as well. It is surging from the outset, embodying the urgency of his title with every bit of the commitment it deserves. The rhythm section, particularly Miller’s bass playing, certainly clears a way for the rest of the band, but the guitars, organ, and brass instruments ably respond to the tempo. The guitar work carries ample bite without ever attempting to overtake the proceedings and the restraint illustrates a fundamental lesson. It isn’t the notes you play, it’s the ones you don’t. Taste is paramount. The members of Project Grand Slam aren’t out to prove anything on this song except that they intend on fulfilling the composition’s potential and providing their audiences with the best possible performance.
The organ is an unexpected and thrilling touch. The instrument has largely fallen out of favor in modern music, but its potential for added new textures and rounding out the sound still makes it one of the most unique voices in popular music. The song is primarily led by the horn and guitar work with the six string acting largely as support or counterpoint. The brass soars with wildly enthusiastic melodies, but knows when to pull back on the reins and concentrate on conveying meaning through melody. It is certainly the strongest musical embodiment of the song title – the rising and falling captures the thrilling implications of a rescue without ever belaboring its point.
Project Grand Slam’s opening single to their forthcoming new album is reliably inventive, distinctive, and works solidly within established traditions without ever being beholden to them. Miller and his collaborators are expert at bringing together a melting pot of influences, filtering them through their individual consciousnesses, and producing memorable modern renderings of classic musical formulas. This is far from imitative. It is exactly what genres like jazz, blues, and other forms require for continued relevancy in the 21st century.
Robert Miller, the band’s artistic visionary, sounds like he is coming home again, in certain respects. If there was a day when his primary aim was to impress people with his bass playing, that day has long passed. Project Grand Slam isn’t the work of callow youth, yearning for approval, but rather a labor of love infused with a singular sense of purpose.