New York City’s Project Grand Slam have been thrilling audiences for quite some time, and recently released their ninth album, Eastside Sessions. In a strange turn of events, the high energy collection came out just when COVID-19 spread. Like any great songwriter would do, the band’s leader and bassist, Robert Miller, went to work creating more music. Feeling like the work he created felt more of a reflection of him, he’s releasing his first solo album, Summer Of Love (Cakewalk Records). His instincts are spot on – Summer Of Love is a remarkable introspective collection, with his signature funk/jazz fusion bound seamlessly together.
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It’s a difficult thing to choose just a few favorites – there are quite a few. The album has 10 solid tracks and my first attempt seemed futile. But here goes. Songs like “Aches and Pains”, “The Night Was A Mystery”, “Bip Bop”, “Bourbon Street” and “New Life (Annie’s Song)” are my top choices. Funny enough, the first single is the politically charged “You Can’t Tell The Truth”. I think this particular song is timely, yes, and those gorgeous horns are tough to beat, but I think I like Miller best when he’s being lovey dovey and storytelling.
“Bip Bop” is actually an instrumental song and the track really explores the different filters and guitar pedals to create some unique, almost pyschedilic blues echoes. It’s fun. The percussion is tight, with the cymbals getting a great workout. The next track, “Bourbon Street” really stood out to me, too. I loved the candor and the laid back storytelling. He seems so smitten by this love that he met, and it’s just a cute song. The piano keys whisk away into the night, dancing just as you imagine this couple in some only in Hollywood movie scene.
“New Life (Annie’s Song)” caught my ear. Miller is singing about the new rules, the new changes and how life means packing up and leaving a city for some. The world was upside down…we tried to follow all the rules, but everything was new, he sings. Just when you think it’s a Woodie Guthrie folksy song, it’s really not. Cue the horns and the jazzy percussion. It’s upbeat, but there is a layer of melachnoly between the lines. Maybe that’s just me being nostaligic. Change can be hard.
Miller really surprised me with is musicality. I was expecting something a bit more intimate and toned down. I wasn’t expecting the full onslaught of horns, solid guitar playing, keys/organ and percussion. And, of course, his outstanding bass guitar. You can tell bass is his main instrument, because you can really hear the strong bass parts in most of the tracks. He’s very subtle in most, but in songs like “Aches and Pains” and “Walking In The Corner” he really makes the listener connect with that low tone. Miller connects with the listener in several ways on this album, and his communication is grounded in community. It’s nice to have a lifeline like this during a trying period, or what he calls ‘the world upside down’.