Gashouse Radio: Project Grand Slam - Trippin'

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In every subgenre of pop, you could make a pretty good argument that the quality and sincerity of a vocalist will make or break a song’s relatability with the listener. While we all tune into different elements of songs, singers automatically draw so much of our attention when we’re listening to music, especially pop music, that their skillset can often make an excellently constructed arrangement sound like garbage or a totally plain and unmemorable riff sound like the hammer of the gods crashing into the earth. As much as a lot of my fellow critics would like to contend that the last decade has seen the industry putting more of a focus on vocalists than we did ten or even twenty years ago, I really have to disagree. There’s been such a lack of creativity from lead singers that producers and sound engineers have had to get a little zany (and a lot wacky) with their mixing of vocal tracks, resulting in spacy, digitalized singing that sounds more robotic than human. Is it different? Sure, but I’d hardly call it legit singing. It might seem like no one has the courage to be experimental and raw with their voice anymore, but proving that there’s still plenty of tenacity on the indie side of the business is none other than the brilliant Ziarra Washington, who recently teamed with Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam for the new album Trippin’. If you’re not familiar with the juggernaut that is Project Grand Slam, allow me to help you get acquainted with their brand.

In the song “Lament,” one of the biggest highlights from Trippin’, Washington delivers the most awe inspiring set of vocals this side of the 20th century amid a jazz composition from Miller that has got to be one of the most creatively designed that I’ve ever had the chance to review. You can tell that Washington isn’t trying to overstate her presence in the song, but she really can’t help but steal the spotlight when she starts to croon and share her God given gift of melody with us. She’s a treasure to listen to and certainly makes the song and the record as a whole worth purchasing if only to get a taste of her majestic talent.

Jazz theory is influencing a lot of young artists these days, and that’s something that I think will inevitably help pop music of the future to be a lot more eccentric and exciting than anything we’ve experienced in the past. The freeform nature of jazz when it is broken down to its bare bones takes away all of the limitations of traditional music as we know them and makes the possibility for sonic growth all the more accessible and palatable for performers, and even audiences, of all calibers. Breaking the rules is essential to changing the narrative of history and our collective culture, and I think we’re long overdue for some old fashioned artistic rebellion. The future is now, and Project Grand Slam appear to be at the forefront of it.

Robert Miller discusses new Project Grand Slam album, Woodstock

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Composer Robert Miller from the Jazz-Rock Fusion band Project Grand Slam chatted with Digital Journal about their new album, "Trippin'."
 

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Robert Miller discusses new Project Grand Slam album, Woodstock SPECIAL

Composer Robert Miller from the Jazz-Rock Fusion band Project Grand Slam chatted with Digital Journal about their new album, "Trippin'."

"The album was a lot of hard work, that's for sure," he admitted. "I have been doing an album each year since 2015, and this one was put together at the end of last year. I started doing a lot of writing over the holiday period, and I made a conscious effort that I wanted to direct the band into the defined space in between that rock and jazz kind of mind. I wanted to add more vocal tunes in the repertoire. The audience responds better to vocals than they do to instrumentals. I have a wonderful female singer, Ziarra Washington and I wanted to give her the chance to shine. I also wanted to attract a younger audience, and I believe that for the most part, all of those goals have been achieved. I feel this new album is our best album to date."Miller shared that they are going to Europe in two weeks to play festivals, one in Norway and one in Serbia. "We just finished playing a festival in Michigan this past weekend," he said.At the end of August, he noted that they have a show at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, New Jersey, and two days after that, they will be playing the Shoreline Jazz Festival in Michigan.He recalled that the original Woodstock was an incredible experience back in the day, and in particular, he was drawn to Joe Cocker's "With A Little Help From My Friends." "Woodstock was amazing as you probably have heard," he said.Digital transformation of the music businessOn the impact of technology on the music business, Miller said, "It's good and it's bad. The good part is that anybody can get their music out there. Anybody can put their music up on iTunes, Amazon or Spotify. That's the good news. You don't have record labels preventing you. Now, though, music is much more competitive. There are so many bands and so many artists, and now the question is 'how do you get heard?' It is a lot more challenging in that regard."On his use of technology in his music routine, he said, "I can't say that I am highly technical in what I do, but for me, it's about melody and groove, and the overall feel of the music. Now, the only thing that counts in terms of your audience is streaming. There are no more CD sales, and it's all about Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube music. Technology is a great way to get your music out there if you are fortunate enough to get picked."Trippin' is available on iTunes.

Read more:  http://www.digitaljournal.com/entertainment/music/robert-miller-discusses-new-project-grand-slam-album-woodstock/article/527927#ixzz5MIt3cCqu

IndieSource:Project Grand Slam release new LP:

If you’re looking for music that takes from jazz, bright 60’s style pop, funky R&B and a touch of ambient experimentalism, you really need to check out Project Grand Slam’s new track “Lament” from their stellar forthcoming album Trippin’, a record already garnering enough praise to make it a major contender in the race for album of the year. While there has hardly been a shortage of new hybrid sounds emerging from the underground in the last half decade or so, none have been nearly exciting as the work that Project Grand Slam’s mastermind Robert Miller has been developing. In this latest release, there’s no room for debate; he critical consensus is in, and this is unquestionably the band to watch as we enter the 2020’s. The biggest reason why we’re talking so much about this release? Instrumentation.

While all of their musical work has been superb to date, Project Grand Slam take their unique sound to the next level on Trippin’ and it isn’t exhibited any better than in the song “Lament,” a brutally emotional power ballad that is led by a sultry jazz rhythm that is so intoxicatingly memorable that it easily knocks out any of the other hooks I’ve heard on the FM dial lately. In a hypnotically styled arrangement, we’re taken through a somberly illustrated portrait of love dreamed of, realized, known, forsaken and lamented in a blistering fireworks show of textured vocals, instruments and sound board manipulation all working in perfect synchronization to make an overwhelming wall of sound. It’s a breathtaking piece, and so much more complex than it lets on during its slow building intro.

“Lament” is a piece of art that is so big and bold that we have an endless amount of detail to study and examine to really be able to appreciate the grand amount of skill that what used to render this poignant love song. The heartache in singer Ziarra Washington’s voice is so intimately up close that we can feel the vibration of her epic vocals as she belts out each thunderous line of poetry. I’ve heard some really amazing singers in my life, but Washington has got to have one of the most elaborately orchestrated ranges I’ve heard in the jazz fusion format (and believe me, if you’re as big of a jazz fan as I am, then you know how daring a proclamation that really is).

There aren’t many artist collectives that layer sounds together with such artful taste as Project Grand Slam does, and I think that “Lament” stands to be one of their most profound examples of their compositional capacities to date. I don’t know how anyone else is going to compete with this song or its parent album, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the kind of fire that this ignites in jazz music as a whole. A little bit of competition is a really good thing for any genre, and if everyone was making music as solid as this group is, we as listeners would be the ones to really benefit.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Trippin-Project-Grand-Slam/dp/B07D4CHY1J

Anne Hollister

Interview With Robert Miller

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Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam America’s Favorite Jazz-Rock Band Taking The World By Storm with A New Album & First Ever European Summer Tour 2018!

Over the course of some brilliant albums, Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam, has re-invigorated the jazz/rock genre. Always adventurous and plainly inventive, Miller and his group has given the genre a giant leap forward. Miller’s own bass playing, clearly driving the group, is very reminiscent of Jack Bruce and is just phenomenal. If you’ve even see him perform live, you know he’s an aggressive go-to player. And, vocalist Ziarra Washington is something to behold as well.

From re-imagining Brit-classics like The Kinks’ “You Really Got me”, to Cream’s “I’m So Glad”, Miller and PGS give their audiences not only an educational tutorial on those classics, but a totally satisfying show. They’ve opened for the likes of Blues Traveler, Edgar Winter and Boney James and will be performing at several festivals this summer.

Q. Your New Album Trippin’ has just been released – tell us about it

A: I always admired how the Beatles evolved their music from album to album, and how within each album they were able to showcase a dizzying array of songs and ideas. I try to pattern Project Grand Slam much the same – the next album being an evolution of our music from the one before, and displaying as much diversity as I can within each CD.

With Trippin’ I feel that I’ve accomplished my goal. It’s a wonderful evolution of PGS, and an album that’s filled with diversity. From “1972”, my homage to the Stevie Wonder type funky synthesizer rock of the early ‘70s with Mario Castro’s fatback sax, to “Country Drive”, which could be the first ‘country jazz’ song featuring a fabulous slide guitar part by Tristan Clark and incredible percussion by Guillermo Barron Rios, to “Trippin’”, the title track, a smokin’ hot burner that the band recorded live-in-the-studio in one take.

With this album I set out to drive the band more towards my rock roots, and I also wanted to add more vocals in order to show off our remarkable singer Ziarra Washington. So I wrote new vocals like “You Started Something”, “Lament”, “No No No”, and “Everyone Swears”, which are unlike any other songs I’ve written before and which all have their own groove and some very edgy lyrics.

Then there are the two ‘special’ songs: “March of the Diplomats” and “Cousins”. When I wrote “Diplomats” I was thinking about Astrud Gilberto of “The Girl From Ipanema” fame. So I wrote this vocal tune that had no words and I gave Ziarra a bare melody to play around with. And the band got into it, with Joel Mateo on drums and Baden Goyo on keys lifting the song to the heavens. “Cousins”, the album closer, is the most personal song on the record. I wrote it as a kind of child’s song for my two new grandchildren who were born recently within a week of each other. It’s got a simple melody that’s repeated five times, each with a different instrumentation, with Ziarra on the high notes sounding like a flute. Just incredible.

 

Q: “I Can’t Explain” is a great song; and, continues your practice of updating and re-imagining a Brit-classic. How did you arrive at this song? We loved your take on The Kinks “You Really Got Me.” It’s great because not only are they great songs, but it immediately telegraphs your musical-knowledge.

A: Look, I grew up on the British Invasion and Classic Rock songs. They’re in my DNA. I played rock exclusively for the first 20 years of my life before I discovered jazz and the jazz fusion bands in particular. When I re-formed PGS in 2015 with the current lineup, I knew that I wanted to take one of those great songs and “reimagine” it. I was a huge fan of Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends”, where he kept the essence of the song but made it his own. I was determined to do the same. So I chose Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”, and our recording took that great song and made it ours.

On the album, The Queen’s Carnival, we did the same with The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”, and then on The PGS Experience with Cream’s “I’m So Glad”. The Who now were an easy choice. I always adored their music and their live shows (I saw them perform half a dozen times).

“I Can’t Explain” was one of their earliest hits. Total power rock. I changed it to 7/8 time, added Ziarra instead of Roger Daltrey on vocals, and Mario came up with a very cool sax figure that drives the tune. Voila!

Q: For the last two albums, you had a premiere/release event at Rockwood in NYC; what’s going to be the premiere this time?

A: I’m not sure if we will have the time to do a NYC premier this go round. We’re gearing up for several festivals this summer and I’m jazzed to introduce the new songs in those venues.

Q: We’re still huge fans of “Gorilla” –from The Queen’s Carnival and The PGS Experience albums- it rocks live. What tracks on the new album will be the go-to-ones?

A: I wish I knew what the hits would be! Personally, I love the vibe we got on “Lament”. It’s a woman scorned song and Ziarra sings the heck out of it. It’s got a U2 vibe with a bit of Adele mixed in. We’ve played it several times in concert now and it gets a huge ovation each time.

Q: You’ve done some recent shows with Edgar Winter and Boney James (again); what were they like?

A: Edgar Winter is amazing. Still going strong after so many decades! He was very kind and complimentary to us when we opened for him recently. So was Boney James, who we’ve now opened for 5 times. It’s amazing to me how PGS is able to win over every kind of audience we’ve played before, from rock to hard rock, jam band, jazz and smooth jazz.

How many other artists can say the same?

Each time we open for a legendary artist we are in effect borrowing their audience. The audience is there to see the headliner, not us. They may not even know that there will be an opening act, and they certainly aren’t there to see us. Yet each time we’ve opened for Edgar, Boney, Blues Traveler, YES, Mindi Abair, Scott Weiland, the audience – their audience and fans – has given us an ovation. Nothing is more satisfying.

Q:  And, you had jazz-darling Mindi Abair on “Fishin’ … what was the experience like with her?

A: We’ve opened twice for Mindi who is a force of nature. Each time we rocked the joint ahead of her and the Boneshakers doing their thing. When we were recording The PGS Experience I asked her if she would play on two of the tracks – “Metro Shuffle” and “Fishin”. She graciously consented, and her playing elevated those tracks. Thanks Mindi!

Q:  Considering how difficult it is to break a jazz/rock aggregation like yours these days, you’ve done exceptionally well. What’s the secret?

A: Hard work, great songs, great playing, persistence and luck. We’ve still got a long way to go!

Q:  Ziarra Washington is just a great vocalist for you; her voice and the instrumentation such a terrific matchup.

Tell us a bit more about her

A: Ziarra is just that – an amazing vocalist and a totally mesmerizing personality and stage presence.

It’s no accident that the CD cover photo for Trippin’ features Ziarra front and center.

 

Special Offer To Our
Pump It Magazine Readers!!

As a Special Offer to Pump It Up Magazine readers, you can purchase a download of the New Album for only $8.00.

Just send an email to pgs@projectgrandslam.com

 

Project Grand Slam – Summer European Festivals!
In August PGS will be performing for the first time in Europe. On August 8 and 9 we will be featured at the Silda Jazz Festival in Norway, followed on August 11 by the Nisville Jazz Festival in Serbia. Headliners at Silda include 10CC and Roger Hodgson of Supertramp, while Nisville is the biggest and most prestigious Jazz Festival in southeastern Europe. 

Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam, The New Album Trippin’ On Sale Right Now!

Robert Miller, Project Grand Slam Fuse Rock, Jazz in Best-Yet Album ‘Trippin’

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Robert Miller and his Project Grand Slam ensemble have hit a new plateau with their sixth studio album Trippin’, out June 29.

Eleven new tracks written by Miller admirably show off the band’s prowess; including their now de rigueur cover of Brit-classic “I Can’t Explain” by The Who.

 

Having opened for the likes of YES, Blue Traveler, Boney James and Edgar Winter, Miller and PGS have traveled across the United States. This summer, the group will perform in Europe for the first time.

TheImproper sat with the peripatetic Miller, and talked about the new album as well as the thought process that led to the creation of his group.

IM: Tell us about the new album Trippin’.

Miller: I really do think that Trippin’ is my best work to date. I wanted to add more vocals to our repertoire and I wanted to produce an album that was more rock oriented. While I loved the great jazz fusion bands like Weather Report and Return To Forever, I also loved rock-jazz bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears, which blended great jazz into rock masterpieces.

 

 Robert Miller and PGS album ‘Trippin’. Click on the photo to buy the album from Amazon. (Photo: PGS)

So Trippin’ reflects my rock roots more so than our previous albums. And as someone who always admired the diversity of The Beatles on each of their albums – which could run the gamut from blues to Indian to ballads – I try to bring a similar diversity to all of the PGS albums. So the songs on Trippin’ are eclectic and heterogeneous, which I think is so much more interesting than hearing basically the same song over and over on an album.

IM: Your Brit-redo on this album is one of my favorites, “I Can’t Explain” by The Who. How’d you arrive at that one?

 

Miller: I was raised on the music of the great British Invasion bands. That music is part of my DNA. In 1994, on the first Robert Miller Group album, I did a kind of psychedelic cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”. When the time came to record PGS’s Made In New York album in 2015, I got an itch to re-record “Fire” with Project Grand Slam, but this time a totally updated version. The PGS version featured Kat Robichaud from The Voice on vocals, and came out amazing. And the critics and reviewers loved it too. It’s become our closer in concert.

When we were preparing to record The Queen’s Carnival in 2016 I decided to continue the Brit-rock thing by “re-imagining” The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” I was fortunate to have a wonderful singer, Lucy Woodward, sing that one – and even Dave Davies of The Kinks liked our version! Last year, on The PGS Experience, I took a song by Cream, one of my favorite groups of all time, called “I’m So Glad” and did the PGS-thing to it – again to great fanfare.

So the idea of re-imagining a great Brit-rock song on each album became a kind of musical signature of mine, and what better group to honor next then The Who? I saw them in concert a number of times, loved them forever, and I thought that I could do something special with “I Can’t Explain.” So I changed the time signature to 7/8, added Ziarra Washington’s great vocal, a little sax figure that I wrote, and voila!!

 

IM: I’ve already seen the video; and, you’re doing Townshend-like windmill moves too, right?

Miller: I just got the urge to do the windmills as we were filming the video in the recording studio. I don’t know how Pete Townshend does that windmill thing without destroying his fingers. Don’t tell anyone, but I wound up doing a reverse windmill from what Pete does to save my fingers!

IM: I heard that the The Who’s original track and The Kinks original “You Really Got Me” (that you re-did on The Queens Carnival) were produced by the same fellow. Any story behind that?

Miller: Shel Talmy was the producer of both of those great songs. I didn’t realize the connection until afterwards. But he was a very cool producer back in the day.

IM: Tell us about the individual bands members? We know there’s more Ziarra Washington on this album.

Miller: My band mates are all extraordinary musicians. They’re all young, talented and from other countries. I affectionately refer to them as my International Cartel! Mario Castro from Puerto Rico plays sax and uses all kinds of pedals and effects – just incredible. Baden Goyo is from Venezuela, plays keyboards and is wonderful. My percussionist Guillermo Barron Rios is from Mexico and plays with Jose Feliciano when he’s not playing with us. My guitarist extraordinaire is Tristan Clark from Vancouver Island, Canada. His slide guitar work on “Country Drive” from the new album is just super. My drummer is Joel E. Mateo from Puerto Rico, just an astoundingly good and creative drummer. And last but certainly not least is our singer, Ziarra from the good old U-S-A, who has a golden voice and is a mesmerizing force on stage.

 

IM: You’ve opened up for YES, Blues Traveler and Edgar Winter among others; tell us about those moments?

Miller: Opening for legendary artists is a thrill. They play in the best venues before extremely supportive crowds. We kind of approach their crowd on a stealth basis. We’ve only got 30 to 40 minutes to perform and try and win over a crowd that’s not there to see us and may not even know that there is an opening act. What’s been amazing is the response that we’ve gotten from every audience, which has been an ovation. So we start out as a complete unknown to them, and by the end of our set they’re standing and applauding. What a great feeling!

IM: When you opened for jazz-darling Mindi Abair at BB King’s, she ended up on a track on the last album (The PGS Experience); tell us how that happened.

Miller: Mindi is a force of nature and she and her band The Boneshakers are just terrific. We opened for her in Feb. 2017 at BB King’s. Afterwards, I asked her if she would play on a couple of tunes for our then upcoming album and she consented. She plays sax on “Metro Shuffle” and “Fishin” on The PGS Experience album. Just great.

IM: I understand you’ll be playing in Europe for the first time this summer. Tell us about that?

Miller: This summer we’re playing at a number of festivals including our first two in Europe. We start off on June 3 performing at the “Jazz In The Park” festival in Birmingham, Ala. We played at last year and had a fantastic time. Then on July 21, we perform in Michigan at “The Rhythm & Rhymes Festival.” August is our big month. We play at the “Silda Jazz Festival” in Norway on August 8/9, then at the Nisville Jazz Festival in Serbia on Aug. 11. Two weeks later, (Aug. 24) we’re performing at a concert at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in NJ, followed by the “Shoreline Jazz Festival” in Michigan on Aug 26. Capping off our summer will be an outdoor concert as part of the “Jazz & Blues festival” in Connecticut, Sept 13.

IM: Your bass playing has been a stand out, tell us a bit about your bass work.

Miller: Because I write and arrange all the songs we play, the bass plays a prominent role in the band’s sound. I take great pride in my bass playing and try to maintain a crisp, distinctive sound when we play live. I solo discretely, mainly because I get bored hearing extended bass or drum solos. My playing gets compared frequently to Jack Bruce of Cream, which I consider a huge compliment because Jack was one of the best.

IM: What do you listen to in your downtime?

Miller: I spend so much time on PGS that I don’t have much chance to listen to other people’s music. I don’t dig much contemporary music. It just doesn’t do it for me. So I guess I live mainly in the past musically!

Times Square Chronicles: Live From The Lambs Club Robert Miller

Live From The Lambs Club Robert Miller

Live From The Lambs Club; Robert Miller, bassist, leader, and composer for Project Grand Slam sat down with www.t2conline.com at the Lambs Club to talk about his band and new CD. He formed the band in 2007, his vision was to create and ensemble that carried on the great Jazz/Rock tradition of he 1970’s, when groups like Weather Report and Return To Forever were at their peak.

Trippin' (Coming June 29, 2018)

TMW Interview: Robert Miller/Project Grand Slam

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By M.A. Cassata

Over the course of some brilliant albums, Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam, has re-invigorated the jazz/rock genre. Always adventurous and plainly inventive, Miller and his group has given the genre a giant leap forward. Miller’s own bass playing, clearly driving the group, is very reminiscent of Jack Bruce and is just phenomenal. If you’ve even see him perform live, you know he’s an aggressive go-to player. And, vocalist Ziarra Washington is something to behold as well.

From re-imagining Brit-classics like The Kinks’ “You Really Got me”, to Cream’s “I’m So Glad”, Miller and PGS give their audiences not only an educational tutorial on those classics, but a totally satisfying show. They’ve opened for the likes of Blues Traveler, Edgar Winter and Boney James and will be performing at several festivals this summer.

Their new album drops on June 29, Trippin’ and we sat with Miller during a recent rehearsal in NYC.

 

Q: Your new album comes out 6/29, Trippin’ – tell us about it

A: I always admired how the Beatles evolved their music from album to album, and how within each album they were able to showcase a dizzying array of songs and ideas. I try to pattern Project Grand Slam much the same – the next album being an evolution of our music from the one before, and displaying as much diversity as I can within each CD.

With Trippin’ I feel that I’ve accomplished my goal. It’s a wonderful evolution of PGS, and an album that’s filled with diversity. From “1972”, my homage to the Stevie Wonder type funky synthesizer rock of the early ‘70s with Mario Castro’s fatback sax, to “Country Drive”, which could be the first ‘country jazz’ song featuring a fabulous slide guitar part by Tristan Clark and incredible percussion by Guillermo Barron Rios, to “Trippin’”, the title track, a smokin’ hot burner that the band recorded live-in-the-studio in one take.

With this album I set out to drive the band more towards my rock roots, and I also wanted to add more vocals in order to show off our remarkable singer Ziarra Washington. So I wrote new vocals like “You Started Something”, “Lament”, “No No No”, and “Everyone Swears”, which are unlike any other songs I’ve written before and which all have their own groove and some very edgy lyrics.

Then there are the two ‘special’ songs: “March of the Diplomats” and “Cousins”. When I wrote “Diplomats” I was thinking about Astrud Gilberto of “The Girl From Ipanema” fame. So I wrote this vocal tune that had no words and I gave Ziarra a bare melody to play around with. And the band got into it, with Joel Mateo on drums and Baden Goyo on keys lifting the song to the heavens. “Cousins”, the album closer, is the most personal song on the record. I wrote it as a kind of child’s song for my two new grandchildren who were born recently within a week of each other. It’s got a simple melody that’s repeated five times, each with a different instrumentation, with Ziarra on the high notes sounding like a flute. Just incredible.

Q: “I Can’t Explain” is a great song; and, continues your practice of updating and re-imagining a Brit-classic. How did you arrive at this song? We loved your take on The Kinks “You Really Got Me.” It’s great because not only are they great songs, but it immediately telegraphs your musical-knowledge.

A: Look, I grew up on the British Invasion and Classic Rock songs. They’re in my DNA. I played rock exclusively for the first 20 years of my life before I discovered jazz and the jazz fusion bands in particular. When I re-formed PGS in 2015 with the current lineup, I knew that I wanted to take one of those great songs and “reimagine” it. I was a huge fan of Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends”, where he kept the essence of the song but made it his own. I was determined to do the same. So I chose Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”, and our recording took that great song and made it ours.

 

On the album, The Queen’s Carnival, we did the same with The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”, and then on The PGS Experience with Cream’s “I’m So Glad”.

The Who now were an easy choice. I always adored their music and their live shows (I saw them perform half a dozen times). “I Can’t Explain” was one of their earliest hits. Total power rock. I changed it to 7/8 time, added Ziarra instead of Roger Daltrey on vocals, and Mario came up with a very cool sax figure that drives the tune. Voila!

Q: For the last two albums, you had a premiere/release event at Rockwood in NYC; what’s going to be the premiere this time?

A: I’m not sure if we will have the time to do a NYC premier this go round. We’re gearing up for several festivals this summer and I’m jazzed to introduce the new songs in those venues.

Q: We’re still huge fans of “Gorilla” –from The Queen’s Carnival and The PGS Experience albums- it rocks live. What tracks on the new album will be the go-to-ones?

A: I wish I knew what the hits would be! Personally, I love the vibe we got on “Lament”. It’s a woman scorned song and Ziarra sings the heck out of it. It’s got a U2 vibe with a bit of Adele mixed in. We’ve played it several times in concert now and it gets a huge ovation each time.

Q: You’ve done some recent shows with Edgar Winter and Boney James (again); what were they like?

A: Edgar Winter is amazing. Still going strong after so many decades! He was very kind and complimentary to us when we opened for him recently. So was Boney James, who we’ve now opened for 5 times. It’s amazing to me how PGS is able to win over every kind of audience we’ve played before, from rock to hard rock, jam band, jazz and smooth jazz. How many other artists can say the same?

Each time we open for a legendary artist we are in effect borrowing their audience. The audience is there to see the headliner, not us. They may not even know that there will be an opening act, and they certainly aren’t there to see us. Yet each time we’ve opened for Edgar, Boney, Blues Traveler, YES, Mindi Abair, Scott Weiland, the audience – their audience and fans – has given us an ovation. Nothing is more satisfying.

Q:  And, you had jazz-darling Mindi Abair on “Fishin’ … what was the experience like with her?

A: We’ve opened twice for Mindi who is a force of nature. Each time we rocked the joint ahead of her and the Boneshakers doing their thing. When we were recording The PGS Experience I asked her if she would play on two of the tracks – “Metro Shuffle” and “Fishin”. She graciously consented, and her playing elevated those tracks. Thanks Mindi!

Q:  Considering how difficult it is to break a jazz/rock aggregation like yours these days, you’ve done exceptionally well. What’s the secret?

A: Hard work, great songs, great playing, persistence and luck. We’ve still got a long way to go!

Q:  Ziarra Washington is just a great vocalist for you; her voice and the instrumentation such a terrific matchup. Tell us a bit more about her

A: Ziarra is just that – an amazing vocalist and a totally mesmerizing personality and stage presence. It’s no accident that the CD cover photo for Trippin’ features Ziarra front and center.

 

Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam: “My Aim is To Drive The Line Between Jazz and Rock”

Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam: “My Aim is To Drive The Line Between Jazz and Rock”

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When Robert Miller – bassist, leader, and composer for Project Grand Slam (PGS) – first formed the band in 2007, his vision was to create an ensemble that carried on the great Jazz/Rock tradition of the 1970’s, when groups like Weather Report and Return To Forever were at their peak. Says Robert: “I loved the music of that era. It was bold and dynamic and touched a nerve all around the world.”

Miller also wanted to honor the artists he grew up with and loved, like Jimi Hendrix, Cream and The Kinks, so he set out to include their songs within PGS “although ‘reimagined’ in my own way.”

 Playing Jazz Rock fusion with a twist of Classic Rock and Latin, PGS has created a unique sound unlike any other artist, while also earning both critical and fan accolades.

 Robert says: “My aim is to drive the line between jazz and rock”, adding: “I want to do everything from a Hendrix song to a Phish song … as well as my own material, and do them in a completely original way.”

 Five albums down the road (the current one being The PGS Experience which features guest artist Mindi Abair on two tracks), Miller is finally receiving the kind of audience response he always envisioned.

 “Our music resonates with every audience we’ve appeared before, from Jazz to Rock and from Millennials to Baby Boomers”, says Robert. 

 Opening for such major artists as Blues Traveler, Boney James, YES, Mindi Abair and Edgar Winter (the latter this past weekend at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater) Miller and PGS have received only positive feedback from fellow musicians as well as audiences alike. For example, John Popper of Blues Traveler called PGS’s show “amazing”, the same adjective used by jazz-darling Mindi Abair.

At the Edgar Winter show, the band received an ovation after their set – which is typical for their concerts – and then the next day Robert received an unsolicited email from husband and wife attendees who said “you blew our socks off by how great you were”, while other attendees called PGS’s performance “fantastic” and “one of the best shows we’ve ever seen”.

One concert goer compared Robert’s bass playing to that of the late Jack Bruce of Cream. Robert says: “My playing gets compared to Jack’s all the time. I consider it a huge compliment as he was one of the all-time greats.”

On The Queen’s Carnival album Robert gave the PGS treatment to The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”. Their version of that song drew kudos from The Kinks’ own Dave Davies.

On The PGS Experience, Miller re-worked Phish’s “Free”. This record, like all of PGS’s albums, drew critical raves, including “Fresh, diverse and full of energy!…Man, they just kill it live!” (Keith ‘Muzikman’ Hannaleck), “Fast and furious funk, infectious melodies and spirited jams!” (Jonathan Widran), and “Hold on to your seats…this album exudes excitement!” (Smooth Jazz Magazine). 

The band is set to record their next album in April, and schedule it for a summer release.

Upcoming shows include back-to-back openers for Boney James in April, as well as a number of festival appearances this summer including the Nisville Jazz Festival in Serbia, the largest and most prestigious such festival in southeastern Europe.

10 New Jazz Albums (and reissues) You Must Know About

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So much jazz, so little time. JAZZIZ.com takes a look at 10 of the hottest new albums (and reissues) that will be released in June 2017. This month: the reissue of a 1996 debut album by a 77-year-old Cuban pianist; a tribute to John Coltrane; a new Snarky Puppy project, and more.

10 – PROJECT GRAND SLAM – The PGS Experience (SONY/RED)

Project Grand Slam is a jazz rock fusion band with a twist of Latin and classic rock led by bassist and composer Robert Miller. The band’s new album, The PGS Experience, contains five new studio tracks and four live ones. Two of the tracks of the album also feature Grammy nominated saxophonist Mindi Abair.

Release date: June 30

 

 

Robert Miller's Project Grand Slam at MAYO

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The band takes the stage. The drummer and the bassist start a funky rhythm, with a guitarist and saxophone player riffing along. You assume this is a contemporary jazz piece.

But then the vocalist takes the mic, and you wonder if your ears are deceiving you. Is she really singing, “I have only one burning desire/Let me stand next to your fire”? Is this really a jazz version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”?

It is. Welcome to the world of Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam.

For the past two years, Miller and his ensemble have been mixing original compositions with jazz versions of songs by Hendrix, the Kinks, Cream and other classic rock artists.

“This is my homage to the great music I grew up listening to,” said Miller, the group’s leader and guitarist.

Project Grand Slam has opened for a host of rock artists, including Yes and the late Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, besides playing jazz festivals.

The group currently is opening for Blues Traveler, the Grammy-winning blues-rock act from the Princeton area. The two bands’ next stop will be the Mayo Performing Art on Saturday.

Sharing the stage with the members of Blues Traveler pleases Miller. “I’ve been a big fan of theirs for a long time,” he said. “I love John Popper. We can’t thank them enough for giving us this opportunity.”

The roots of Project Grand Slam date back about a decade. Miller had put together a contemporary jazz ensemble that gradually was gaining some fame. (For example, the group played on an episode of the TV series “Lipstick Jungle.”)

However, the members lived in several countries.

“The logistics made it difficult for us to play out for any length of time,” he said. “We could get together for a couple of recordings, but that was it.”

Eventually, Miller decided that he needed to disband the group. But the itch to play never left him, and in 2015 he decided to put together a new lineup of Project Grand Slam.

“The idea was to put together a group of young, really talented, university trained jazz musicians,” Miller said. “I found these musicians who had great talent and great enthusiasm.”

Several of these new players came from Hispanic countries, and Miller was especially excited at the way they would work Latin rhythms into the performances.

At the same time, Miller had the idea of arranging classic rock songs — the music he grew up with — for the group. “I never liked musicians who just copy a recording of a song note-for-note,” he said. “I like musicians who do something different.”

His approach is evident on the group’s new CD, “The Project Grand Slam Experience,” which was released at the end of June. (The title is partly a tribute to the Jimi Hendrix Experience.)

The album consists of five studio tracks and five live performances.

“We wanted to capture the band in its totality,” Miller said. “Half of the songs are originals, and half are covers.”

The covers include “Fire,” “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks (which earned the appreciation of Kinks co-founder Dave Davies), and “I’m So Glad,” popularized by the band Cream.

Miller added that he is proud that jazz-rock saxophonist Mindi Abair is featured on one track of “The Project Grand Slam Experience.”

Crossing the worlds of jazz and rock may seem unusual, but Miller feels that he and his group are carving out a distinctive identity that is able to draw audiences.

“We’re not smooth jazz. We’re not rock. We’re not 1970s fusion,” Miller said. “We’re a different kind of band, but we are a band that make people listen.”

Article written by Bill Nutt.

 

 

Phase Global Radio - "The PGS Experience" - the Brand New Album

Phase Global Radio

ROBERT MILLER’S

 

PROJECT GRAND SLAM

 

BRAND NEW ALBUM

 

THE PGS EXPERIENCE

 

OUT NOW!

The PGS Experience” – the Brand New Album By Project Grand Slam, Jazz Rock Fusion with a twist of Classic Rock & Latin! The brainchild of acclaimed bassist/composer Robert MillerProject Grand Slam is a Jazz Rock Fusion band with a twist of Classic Rock and Latin, which has earned over one million video views while defying genres, languages and geographic boundaries.

Gashouse Radio says: “Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam deserves mentioning as among the best musical acts produced by American culture in the last quarter century!”

PGS has cultivated a fervent, worldwide fan base fueled in large part by the Latin/Caribbean-infused title track from the band’s 4th studio album, ‘The Queen’s Carnival’ (2016). No Depression praised the album as “a uniquely affecting work…impossibly memorable!”

With influences as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks, Afro-Cuban rhythms and Celtic folk, Robert has delivered a sound like no other.

In fact, one of Robert Miller’s musical signatures is to take Classic Rock songs such as Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Fire’ and The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’, and to completely re-imagine them.

Project Grand Slam has shared the stage with such artists as Mindi Abair, Boney James (twice), YES and Scott Weiland (formerly of Stone Temple Pilots), and performed at numerous major venues. In the coming months PGS will be opening for Blues Traveler and again for Boney James.

The band’s Brand New 5th album, “The PGS Experience”  Available Now – features 2 x GRAMMY Nominee Saxophonist Mindi Abair on two tracks.

The CD consists of five new studio cuts (three new tunes written by Robert and two new PGS-style covers arranged by Robert of songs by Cream and Phish), plus four dynamic and powerful live concert tracks of some of the band’s best known songs.

Robert Says: “The New Album represents the best of PGS between the studio and the live tracks. We continue to drive the line between Jazz and Rock like no other band.”

Robert Miller originally formed PGS in 2007.

In 2009 the band and Robert also had a featured role in an episode of the hit NBC-TV series “Lipstick Jungle” starring Brooke Shields and Kim Raver,with five of the band’s tunes featured in the soundtrack and Robert having a speaking part.

PGS has had several top radio singles – “The Captain Of Her Heart” (ft. Judie Tzuke on vocals) from ‘Play’ (2008), “Catch You Later” and the title song from ‘Spring Dance’ (2012), “Fire” and “New York City Groove” (both ft. Kat Robichaud on vocals) from ‘Made In New York’ (2015), and “You Really Got Me” (ft. Lucy Woodward on vocals) and the title track from ‘The Queen’s Carnival’ (2016).

PGS will be performing at the following Music Festivals in 2017: Jamaica Ocho Rios International Jazz Festival, Jazz On The River Festival (MI), Highland Lakes Concert Series (NJ), and Magic City Smooth Jazz’s “Jazz In The Park” Festival (AL).

Plus Project Grand Slam have already secured invitations to perform at major European Summer Jazz Festivals for 2018.

Their unique blend of improvisation of Jazz, Rock & Latin is very exciting and the bands popularity among global music fans is testament to the groups massive appeal…Robert Says; “What I’m trying to achieve now with PGS is to combine the power and beat of rock with the improvisation of jazz in a new and exciting way that takes the music to a whole other level.”

Treat Yourself to Something Very Special…Grab Your Copy of Project Grand Slam’s New Album…”The PGS Experience”You’ll just love it as much as we do!

This Most Highly Recommended & Must Have New Album

by Project Grand Slam

The PGS Experience is Proudly Presented By Phase Global Radio

 

Robert Miller & Project Grand Slam Style The Music For a Global Audience

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For master bassist Robert Miller what matters most is the music. Oh he’s intrigued with how to make the business of music work and can speak lucidly about it. He has wrangled with how to find the best and widest audience for his group, Project Grand Slam, and its unique blend of Classic Rock and Latin reframed into the mold of jazz rock fusion. And it’s a severe understatement to say that he’s a multi-hyphenate or defier of genre classifications.

With that in mind he is faced with the professional and creative conundrum of being caught in the middle; is PGS rock or jazz?; should the music be genre specific or totally distinctive? And in turn, when the music becomes too difficult to label it may be harder to find the right audience. The bottom line, though, is that his music is special and not just like everything else out there. 

Thankfully, in a very wide world filled with online discoveries and digital communication there is definitely an audience for PGS. I think a big audience. They’re out there, in the U.S. but also in Brazil, Mexico, the Czech Republic, South Africa, etc. And that’s what makes seeing the band live such an enriching experience as it sometimes shifts and changes in its live form — that international experience is right there in the band. 

Miller has assembled what he jokingly calls his International Cartel – a group of young, extremely talented musicians mainly from overseas.  Places like Puerto Rico, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, and Dominican Republic. Together, they take Miller’s compositions and his brilliant Classic Rock covers, and transform the music and transfix the listener.

Witness the recent permutation of the band when it performed material from PGS’s latest album, “The PGS Experience”, at its recent CD release party at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall. The ensemble that night was comprised of Ziarra Washington (vocals), Mario Castro (sax), Baden Goyo (keys), Tony Greco and Flavio Silva (guitars), Ruben Coca (drums) and Carlos Maldonado (percussion) in addition to Miller on bass, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park. Just listen to their version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” off the disc with Ziarra kicking out the lead vocals and you’ll immediately “get” PGS. When that’s replicated on stage it’s worthy of global embrace.

So such an aural experience warrants pulling back the curtain a bit and asking band leader Miller to explore how he does it.

Q: What’s the process behind your music?

RM: For me it all starts with the rhythm and the groove. I fiddle around until I come up with something I like. And it must have a memorable melody because people respond to and remember great melodies. Next I add the colors – the sounds that fill in the cracks and make the musical painting come alive. Then I decide what solos I want to have in each case based upon the instrument and the song. I rarely have more than two solos per tune. I choose an instrument because I want that specific sound, I want that timbre. For example, on our version of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” we have a sax solo followed by a guitar solo. I felt that I had to have a guitar solo in there. The Kinks were the forerunners of grunge. They were the hardest of hard rock back then. I mellowed out their song a bit in my arrangement but I also wanted to get back to what it was that made that song great, so that’s why I put the guitar solo in there. And it works – even Dave Davies of The Kinks said so!

On our version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” I gave the keyboard a solo. Why? Because given Hendrix everybody expects it to be a guitar solo, and I didn’t want to have the guitarist be compared to a god like Hendrix. I wanted a different sound, a different feel. Again, I think it worked.

Q: You write mainly instrumentals. Do you compose vocal songs too?

RM: I’ve written only one vocal song to date called “New York City Groove.” It was a big challenge for me because I’m much more comfortable writing instrumentals. But vocals are a big part of the PGS experience so I felt that I needed to write one.

The melody of “Groove” I actually wrote 20 years ago and had forgotten about. I found a cassette tape in my drawer from an old rehearsal with a version of the melody. What can you play a cassette on these days? Well, as it turns out that my wife saved a boom box from when our kids were young. I put the cassette tape in, listened, and said to myself, “Hey, that’s not bad.” 

So I finished the music in about 10 minutes. Then I decided that I wanted to make it a vocal. My difficulty is that I'm a music guy not a lyrics guy. The music may have taken me 10 minutes but the lyrics took me a week!  When you write lyrics you have to have a thought in mind as to what you want to say. 

Q: Everybody else who writes lyrics seems to…

RM: I know! I listen to the words in songs but I rarely think much about them. I focus more on the sounds. You know that great Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”? The one that goes “Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine…” I loved the sound of that word poem. John Lennon also used to string together words as sounds. Just listen to “I Am The Walrus”. 

Q: You told me there were two songs that you didn’t rehearse before your recent performance at American Beauty in NYC. What were they?

RM: One was “Lucky Seven” from our last album, “The Queen’s Carnival”. The tune is in 7/4 time. It starts with a bass figure and then the sax comes in with the melody. My sax player Mario is an amazing musician but that night he totally spaced on the tune and it took him about a minute to get it right. Meanwhile he was playing all around the melody. But what came out was really interesting. It had kind of a Middle Eastern feel to it. It was like a new song. I loved it!

He was trying to work his way into the melody. And we’re playing live, so I can’t exactly stop him and say, “This is how it goes.” My point is I let him figure it out and work it out and it came out very cool. Of course, nobody in the audience would have ever known what I just told you. That’s one of the best things about doing original material!

Q: Do you encourage your vocalist Ziarra to improvise?

RM: Absolutely. I don't think we play any tune exactly the same way twice. She’s doing something different each time. The inflection, the rideout. We’re all doing something different. That’s what makes this music fun to play.

Q: You do a cover of a Cream song. How did that come about?

RM: I loved Cream. They were maybe my favorite band from the ‘60s. And I definitely picked up a lot on the bass from listening to Jack Bruce. We do a PGS-style cover of “I’m So Glad”.  I felt that I needed to do a Cream song and people have asked me why that one. Well I didn’t want to choose something obvious like “Sunshine of Your Love.” I always loved how Cream played “I’m So Glad” in concert. I thought that I could take the essence of the song and do something different and interesting with it. Our version of the song is now one of the most popular tunes we do in concert.

Q: Ginger Baker came out of a jazz background before Cream.

RM: Yes and so did Charlie Watts of the Stones… For the last 60 years or so all Charlie has said he wanted to do was play jazz. I guess he plays rock and roll because it makes a him a ton of money!

Q: What was the other unrehearsed song you played at American Beauty?

RM: The other one we didn’t rehearse in advance was called “Beyond Forever”, also from our “The Queen’s Carnival” CD. The interesting thing about that song that night from my point of view was that Ruben, our drummer, came up with a slightly different feel for the song than on the recording. It made the song different, but again I loved it!

Q: Did you tell Ruben to play it that way?

RM:  No I don’t tell anyone how or what to play. They’re all great musicians. I value and encourage their creativity. The main difference between what we do and pop music is that in pop the songs are played the same note-for-note each time they are performed, while with our music because it’s improvisational in all respects the songs are always different each time we play. And the different lineups of musicians that I use also changes the songs. Each musician brings his or her own feel and sensibility to the tunes so they take on a different character depending upon he lineup.

Q: Ever thought of doing a workshop to teach how one of your songs comes together?

RM: I’d love to do something like that! In fact, at the right venue I would bring in a brand new song and evolve it right then and there with the band in front of the audience like we do at a rehearsal.

Q: Ever thought of doing more out-there instrumentation?

RM: I’ve thought of doing plenty of things! I’d love to be experimental like that. I consider myself a rock musician that has brought jazz into what I play. I don’t have the same schooling or attitude that the pure jazz guys have.

Q: What does a pure jazz bassist do that you don’t? 

RM: It’s more the attitude, not what they do that’s different. You’ll also notice that my music doesn’t include bass-only solos, or drum-only solos for that matter. Not my bag, and it changes the drive of the song, So I solo within the context of the song. People have said this - and I agree - I play “lead bass”. If you listen carefully to PGS it’s the bass that defines and drives each song. I’m not just laying a foundation. I’m filling gaps and doing my improvisation within the context of our jams. The great bass players that I admire, guys like Jack Bruce, Jim Fielder, Tim Bogert – also drove the music. I also don’t do all the gimmicky stuff like slapping and popping. And I don’t use pedals and effects. I have a certain distinctive sound that I try to maintain. I want people to recognize my playing and my sound. The great Jaco Pastorius had a distinctive sound. 

Q: I can’t imagine writing a novel as an improvisation. Jazz or other music you can do improvisation and it works.

RM: This is what I do. Let’s use Cream again as an example. Cream had a framework for every song. A melody, a beat, chord structure, then they went off into improv land. Everything I do has a framework. I set the framework, the song has a feel, a vibe, a rhythm and a melody. I typically start with having the melody played twice in order to establish it. Then we do solos and we return to the melody a final time. It’s a classic way of structuring but I think people like to have a framework around music. My wife, who’s not a musician, yells at me whenever we play something that’s too long. 

Q: What does she consider too long?

RM: Ten minutes is beyond her comfort level. She says nobody wants to listen to anything that long!

Q: Are your kids musicians?

RM: They’re not musicians but they love music and they’re big fans of PGS. 

Q: Tell me about the writing experience.

RM: It’s mystical for me. Sometimes I write things and completely surprise myself.  On the new CD I wrote a song called “Fishin”. It’s a Caribbean Island/Jimmy Buffet vibe kind of song. Where did that come from? I haven’t the faintest idea. I started playing a riff, I fooled around with it a bit, and all of a sudden something came out that had an Island vibe. Boom! I ask myself, “Do I like it, do I not like it?” If it passes the smell test I bring it to rehearsal and I play it for the band and we work it out. And this one worked out great. Same thing with “The Queen’s Carnival,” which was the title tune for the last album. A Latin song, a fiesta. I didn’t start out to write that but it just happened.

Q: That was the one with the Latin feel?

RM: Yes that was the Latin thing. I grew up in Queens NY. My father and I listened to Spanish music on the radio all the time. But I didn’t set out to write a Latin song, it just happened. And my guys – being mainly Latin – they made it work. Again, from my perspective those are the great unexpected things I love. It just happens and I have no idea where it comes from.

Q: Do you ever imagine yourself not playing anymore?

RM: No. 

Q: They’ll bury you with your bass?

RM: Yup – just me and my Pedulla!!

Robert Miller's Project Grand Slam Teams Up With Mindi Abair

Smooth Jazz Network

Robert Miller's Project Grand Slam recently released their 5th CD “The PGS Experience". The single "Fishin" featuring saxophone darling and Grammy nominee Mindi Abair is enjoying radio airplay on the Smooth Jazz Network family of radio stations.The release includes five new studio tracks (three originals plus PGS-style covers of Phish and Cream), and four live tracks of some of their most popular songs. 

 

"The PGS Experience" is getting rave reviews!

“Fresh, diverse and full of energy!...Man, they just kill it live!” (Keith “Muzikman” Hannaleck)

”Fast and furious funk, infectious melodies and spirited jams!" (Jonathan Widran)

"Hold on to your seats...this album exudes excitement!" (Smooth Jazz Magazine)

"I take my hat off to the creative aspirations of Robert Miller...'The PGS Experience' will take a special place in the discography of this famous band!" (Jazz Quad)

At their July 15th show opening for Blues Traveler at the MAYO Performing Arts Center in New Jersey, Project Grand Slam received a standing ovation and multiple on stage accolades from Blues Traveler. Upcoming shows for the band include August 5th at the 22nd annual Detroit Jazz on The River Festival,  August 24th headlining the Jazz night of Harlem Summer Stages in New York City, In Alabama on October 1st at Magic City's Smooth Jazz-Jazz In The Park Festival and opening for Boney James in October at Ridgefiled Playhouse in Connecticut.

 

You can hear Project Grand Slam's hit single FISHIN' right here on the SJN.

 

Photo Credit: John Wisdom at The MAYO Performing Arts Center in NJ

Debbie's "On The Verge" with Robert Miller of Project Grand Slam

Anytime I hear a sax in a song, I'm immediately hooked. Tell me it's by Mindi Abair, and I'm even more intrigued!  I really enjoyed talking with Robert Miller, and I think you're going to love the sound of this band!  They're opening for Blues Traveler this Saturday at Mayo Performing Arts Center, so if you have no plans, this would be an excellent way to spend a Saturday night!   I also love that Robert re-works songs, and uses female singers, too!   Check them out, I know you're going to love them!

Listen to the full interview on Magic 98.3 here..

The Mac Wire - The Glorious Corner: Robert Miller's PGS Swings at Rockwood 2

ROBERT MILLER’s PGS SWINGS AT ROCKWOOD 2 — Last August, Robert Miller’s terrific rock/jazz ensemble Project Grand Slam had a CD release party at Rockwood 2 for their Queen’s Carnival album; Monday night, they did a repeat for their just-out CD The PGS Experience, and gave a performance the likes of which, was not only their best yet, but just reverberated inside the small confines of the club. To a packed room of industry folk, they unleashed most of their new album as well as some re-imagined covers, like The Kinks “You Really Got Me”; Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”; and their brilliant cover of Phish’s “Free.”

The band was just on fire this night, with guitarist Flavio Silva just impossibly brilliant. The other guitarist, Tony Greco, was equally as impressive, and percussionist Carlos Maldonado, who was actually set up in the audience area, was terrific as well and vocalist Ziarra Washington, nuanced and perfect. Sax-man Mario Castro was point-perfect too.

Miller’s playing, which still reminds this writer of the late-great Jack Bruce, was propulsive and drove the whole band steadily.

The new album contains the track “Fishin’” with jazz-darling Mindi Abair on it and the track has become a much played one via Jazz Radio. It’s a great song and Abair’s precision sax-notes are just spot on.

A great night. Seen in the crowd were: Adam Pollack and Vinny Rich from CEN/SONG; Pop Entertainment’s Brad Balfour; and, the PGS pr-team of Gwen Toline and David Salidor. Check out their new album, it’s terrific!

The Mac Wire - The Glorious Corner: Robert Miller's Project Grand Slam

PGS’ BEAUTY — Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam, who release their fifth album The PGS Experience on June 30, held court Friday night at American Beauty in NYC. We’ve been tub thumping the band and their new record, which we feel is their strongest effort yet, drove right into the new album, starting with the vibrant “Metro Suffle,” then into “Gorilla” which remains a powerful track and then Miller’s re-imagined version of The Kinks “You Really Got Me,” with Ziarra Washington. The outfit, who were at the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival in Jamaica last weekend, is a tight, knit ensemble that simmers and burns with noted precision. Miller’s bass playing remains simply superb and the interplay between him and saxophonist Mario Castro is most striking. The band also has released as their initial single from the new album, a version of Phish’s “Free,” again with Washington on vocals and it proves a terrific live track. We also enjoyed “The Queen’s Carnival” and a stunning version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.” Seen in the crowd were CEN’s Adam Pollock, POP Entertainment’s Brad Balfour and the Miller’s PR-team Gwen Toline and David Salidor. A superb show. Thanks to John Wisdom for the photos.

Project Grand Slam Bandleader Robert Miller Talks About Its Post-Fusion of Jazz and Rock

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By Dan Ouellette, Senior Editor ZEALnyc, May 25, 2017

On the eve of jazz rock fusion ensemble Project Grand Slam’s fifth recording, ‘The PGS Experience’, founder and leader Robert Miller says “I decided to follow my passion to play a heavier sound of rock ‘n’ roll and jazz—to drive things right down the line.” (The official release date of ‘The PGS Experience’ is June 30, with a pre-order May 26 availability on iTunes and Amazon.)

The way the electric bassist looks at it, jazz harking back to the ‘50s is stuck in a time capsule as far as the melodic compositional references being relevant to that time. The deep-grooved, dynamic Project Grand Slam was born with jazz-rock fusion in mind. Miller’s not stuck in the ‘70s either, playing what he calls post-fusion. “We’re not playing the jazz standards,” he says. “And fusion? I don’t know why fusion got a bad name back in the day when you think of a band like Weather Report that packed in audiences who got what was happening with the connection of jazz into rock. But we’re evolving that further to bring in Celtic folk, Afro-Cuban and Caribbean influences.”

Miller didn’t grow up a jazz guy. “I grew up on rock and roll,” he says. “I was into the Beatles whose songs were unique, with different styles, variety and different formats. They were artists who were creating a new level of songwriting.” He adds that for the first 20 years of his life he didn’t know anything about jazz. “I’m totally the opposite of the jazz fusion guys who were classically trained and then began to infuse the rock sound. I started out a rock guy, totally comfortable in that milieu and began to infuse jazz and improvisation into that.”

In the past few years, PGS has even played “totally rock” shows, including Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory that was featuring two heavy rock bands on the bill, and being a supporting act with hard rock/blues band Ten Ton Mojo for rocker Scott Weiland of the Stone Temple Pilots at Gramercy Theater show shortly before his death in 2015. “Our music has gone over with all audiences” says Miller.

Recently, Project Grand Slam opened a show for jazz crossover alto saxophonist Mindi Abair at B.B. Kings in New York, which led to her appearing on the new album. “As a musician, Mindi is a lot closer to my vision,” he says. “She’s basically a rocker who plays a mean sax, and she does covers like a swampy take on Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ while we do a cover of ‘Fire’. So I asked her if she would play on two of my originals on the album. She nailed it, especially on my ‘Island’ song ‘Fishin,’ which is a great summer tune. She played her alto in a lower register for a meaty sound. Just great.”

Starting on the trumpet, Miller made the transition to bass when he was 14 and formed a band with friends. Since he knew the treble clef from trumpet, he volunteered to play the bass clef on cover tunes they were learning. He was in the rock zone with influences including Blood Sweat & Tears’ Jim Fielder, Vanilla Fudge’s Tim Bogert and Cream’s Jack Bruce.

Jazz came full force into Miller’s life when he took a summer music class at Brooklyn College and ended up doing one-on-one tutorials with John Coltrane’s bassist, Jimmy Garrison, whom he had never heard of. “Jimmy was the sweetest, nicest teacher,” Miller says. “The first piece he taught me was ‘All The Things You Are,’ trying to get me to walk on bass. It was a humble beginning, but I got into the nuances of playing jazz bass.”

When Miller left for Boston, he asked Garrison who he should look up. “Here are the guys who will take care of you,” he said, which led to him forming a band that opened for the likes of Gary Burton, Sonny Stitt and Jaki Byard. “It was a great experience, but that’s also when I got into the fusion of what Miles was doing, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report.”

When he returned to New York five years later he played at clubs like Birdland and Blue Note before taking a left turn into founding a record label. Through a lawyer contact he got together with legendary producer Joel Dorn and the two formed 32 Records. They bought Joe Field’s Muse catalog and began to produce reissues, and had an outsized hit with the 1998 compilation album ‘Jazz for a Rainy Afternoon’ that ended up selling 1 million copies. “The good thing is that we sold the label right before Napster,” Miller says with a laugh.

That actually got Miller back into the band leadership realm, founding Project Grand Slam and forming his own label, Cakewalk, to issue PGS recordings. The ensemble is an evolving cast that he calls his International Cartel because the band members come mainly from various foreign countries including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Italy, and Canada. PGS’s longtime drummer Joel E. Mateo says that he loves being in the fusion zone with PGS. “Robert’s a great band leader because he wants us to bring our ideas to his compositions which gives the fusion a more funky, rocky feel,” he says. “We bring our different cultures to the music to give that salty flavor.”

A strong element to PGS is Miller’s writing—composing songs instead of just heads for his band to play around. “I wanted variety, not just homogeneous licks, that I present to the guys,” he says. He also features female vocalists. In the case of the new album, it’s Ziarra Washington. “She’s an incredible vocalist,” Miller says. “She has great stage presence and captivates an audience. Vocals are important in this band. It enhances what we do.”

As for covers, Miller stretches back to the old days of rock and tries to “reimagine” the songs. On an earlier album (2015’s “Made in New York”), the band worked up an improvisational launch into Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” and on its last recording, last year’s The Queen’s Carnival, it zinged into The Kinks’ AM radio hit “You Really Got Me.” “Those are signature songs for me,” says Miller. “The Kinks were the forefathers of grunge, which is why we’ve put the nasty guitar hooks in. I wanted to cover songs that people can relate to. That’s my bag. I love the music of the ‘60s.”

On ‘The PGS Experience’, Miller and co. jump into Cream’s “I’m So Glad,” which also helped to inspire the format of the album, which is recorded half live and half studio. “I was all over Cream’s Wheels of Fire album,” says Miller of the 1968 record that sold platinum. “It was a two-LP set, with one LP recorded in the studio, and the other LP recorded live. I figured if it worked for Cream, let’s try it for Grand Slam.” Originally Miller was going to release a batch of new songs as an EP, but when he heard some recent high-quality live recordings he changed his mind. “They really captured the flavor of the band in concert.”

 

As for why he formed Cakewalk. Miller says, “We all know the music world has changed dramatically since Napster emerged and upended the system. The major record labels used to be the gatekeepers to the world for artists, together with radio and retail. Now with online, downloading, streaming and social media it’s all different. Artists no longer need a major label to get their product out. They can do it themselves just as well.” He gets PGS recordings out to such streaming services as iTunes and Amazon and has secured a major distributor in SONY/RED.

“That’s the good news,” Miller says. “But it’s also the bad news because it’s harder nowadays for an artist to break through all the clutter with everyone’s music being available online. The old record label gatekeeper system did have its benefits.”

Another good news scenario for Miller with Cakewalk is that “I own all of my masters and my publishing. An outside record label would own the masters and probably require me to turn over half the publishing to them.”

In celebrating ‘The PGS Experience’, the group has a number of upcoming shows, especially at festivals and series outside of New York, including June 4 at the Jamaica Ocho Rios International Jazz Festival, June 23 at the Highland Lakes Concert Series in New Jersey, June 25 at the St. Kitts Music Festival, August 5 at the Jazz On The River Festival in Detroit, and October 1 at Magic City Smooth Jazz’s ‘Jazz In The Park’ Festival. In between those dates, on June 9 at American Beauty in NYC, PGS shares the stage with The Lizards, a Canadian band that specializes in Phish covers, a show, Miller says, which evolved because PGS puts its spin on “Free,” a Phish cover, on the new album.

Cover: (l. to r.) Robert Miller; photo: Project Grand Slam / Mindi Abair; photo: James Ragan.

The Mac Wire Interview: Robert Miller’s ‘Project Grand Slam’

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The Mac Wire Interview: Robert Miller’s ‘Project Grand Slam’

Robert Miller and his Project  Grand Slam (PGS) outfit has been carefully carving out his niche in the rock/jazz music world. Last year’s release The Queen’s Carnival was a immediately compelling assortment of originals (which garnered worldwide attention) plus an inspired re-working of The Kink’s “You Really got Me.”

His new album, his 5th, The PGS Experience, is out on June 30 and displays him and his band at their best, with two more stellar re-workings as well as jazz-darling Mindi Abair on two tracks. We met with Robert in midtown- Manhattan to discuss the album in advance of its release:  

Q: This is your 5th PGS album (out June 30th); what do you want your audience to know about it? 

A: I think this album is our best work to date. Between the new original songs and the new PGS style covers, the instrumentals and the vocals, and the studio tracks and live cuts, this CD really captures all aspects of our music and performance. So the album nameThe PGS Experience fits perfectly.

I take great pride in the variety of my music. The new album continues this. It runs the gamut from laid back Island vibe, to jazz rock fusion, to powerhouse rock.  

Q: You have guest saxophonist Mindi Abair on two tracks (“Fishin’” and “Metro Shuffle”); tell us how you both met and where.

A: We had the pleasure of opening for Mindi and her band The Boneshakers this past February at BB King’s in NYC.  She’s an awesome musician and performer, and she was incredibly complimentary about our performance that night. Musically we have a lot in common – both of us straddle the line between jazz and rock. And she does the coolest cover of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” while we do Jimi’s “Fire!”

I thought that she would be a perfect guest artist for a couple of my songs on the new album and I asked her if she would consider playing sax on them. She immediately agreed. Her playing on the tracks is extraordinary!

Q: On the last album (The Queen’s Carnival) you had a terrific re-imagined version of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”; and, on this new one, you have “I’m So Glad” from the Cream catalog and “Free” from Phish. Tell us how you arrived at both choices?

A: I grew up on 60’s Classic Rock. I love taking one of these classics and updating it, making it my own, but still retaining the essence of the original.

Cream was one of my favorite bands of all time. And Jack Bruce has been an inspiration to me on the bass. I felt it was time to take one of their songs and give it the PGS treatment. And it so happens that 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the U.S. release of Cream’s first album which contained their cover of Skip James’s “I’m So Glad”. So I thought it would be timely and appropriate to do a PGS style cover of Cream’s cover! I changed the feel and added a female singer. We rock out on that one!

Our cover of Phish’s “Free” varied my MO a bit. Phish is perhaps the world’s best jam band, and a lot of people feel that PGS is basically a jazz rock fusion jam band. I’ve been a fan of Trey Anastasio and the band for some time. So I thought it would be cool to take one of their better known songs and give it the PGS treatment!

Q: There’s also Hendrix’s “Fire” live. Tell us how that song has worked for you.

A: “Fire” was a song that I initially played in my 60’s rock and roll band back in the day, and the song then became my first Classic Rock cover. I recorded a kind of psychedelic version of it in 1994 on a Robert Miller Group album. Al Foster – who was Miles Davis’s drummer – played drums on that track, which was a bit strange for him but he pulled it off great!

Fast forward to 2015 when PGS was recording our 3rd CD, Made In New York. I came up with a totally different version of “Fire.” The track instantly resonated with fans, critics and everyone else.

We’ve been playing “Fire” in our live act ever since. It’s our closer in concert. The audience reaction is always incredible. I knew we had to close the new album with it! 

Q: I was at the launch release for your last album and you and the band were terrifically engaging onstage; your vocalist Ziarra was onstage for a few tracks and the crowd loved her. Tell us about her.

A: Ziarra Washington is an incredible singer and performer. She brings joy, enthusiasm and great talent to every song.

At this time we have five vocal tunes in our set – four covers and one of my originals called “New York City Groove.”  I intersperse the vocals throughout our live set. I need a singer that not only can sing the heck out of those songs but who also helps to elevate the band’s performance. Ziarra is that kind of singer.

Q: You’re obviously fan of jazz/fusion music, and artists like Weather Report and Chick Corea’s Return To Forever; How do you feel PGS lines up with them?

A: I would never compare PGS to those iconic artists except to say that we, like them, drive the line between jazz and rock. One big difference, however, is that those bands were jazz guys who incorporated rock elements into their music. On the other hand, I’m basically a rock guy – I played only rock and roll until I was 20 – who has incorporated jazz into my music. It’s a subtle but significant difference.

The great jazz fusion groups resonated with the public. In fact, the artists you mention played sold out concerts around the world and introduced jazz to a generation. So I’m very pleased to be continuing and expanding upon this type of music.

Q: You and the band have a two-pronged approach; the jazz/fusion aspect and classic-rock … was that always intended or did it just evolve?

A: Jazz Rock Fusion and Classic Rock are the two musical genres that turn me on. It was only natural that I would incorporate them together. I just hope that people dig the combo as much as I do!

Q: I understand there are some international shows coming up.

A: Yes. I’m pleased to say that this summer we’ve broken into the Festival circuit and we’re playing at four of them. The two international festivals are the Jamaica Ocho Rios International Jazz Festival on June 4th, and the St. Kitts Music Festival on June 25th. The other two are the Highland Lakes Concert Series in NJ on June 23rd and Magic City Smooth Jazz’s “Jazz In The Park” Festival in Alabama on Oct. 1st.

Q: We also loved the retro-look on the cover for the new album; how’d that come to be?

A: A few years ago I commissioned a very talented artist named Ron Stattner, who does fabulous wire sculptures, to do one of me playing my bass. I thought that turning his sculpture into an album cover would be very cool. It’s very distinctive, and yes, has a great retro feel.

BassMusician

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Bass Player Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam

So far the year 2017 has been a musical home run for Project Grand Slam. The brainchild of bassist/composer Robert Miller, PGS is a fusion of Rock and Jazz with a twist of Classic Rock and Latin.

The band has earned over 1 million video views while defying genres, language and geographic boundaries. PGS has developed a fervent international fan base, in large measure due to the Latin-infused title track from their recent 4th album, “The Queen’s Carnival”.

On February 1st the band had the pleasure of opening for 2x Grammy Award nominee Mindi Abair and the BoneShakers at B.B. King’s Blues Club in New York City.

The capacity crowd excitedly responded to Project Grand Slam’s original fusion music and their special reimaginings of several Classic Rock songs. The band performed songs from their most recent hit CD, ‘The Queen’s Carnival’, and their upcoming new EP release. Following their performance Mindi Abair and her band members enthusiastically praised Project Grand Slam on stage. Here are two Live Videos from PGS’s performance. PGS “Free” (Phish Cover) PGS “Fire” (Jimi Hendrix cover)

Downbeat Magazine is widely regarded as one of the premier Jazz magazines in the world. The March 2017 issue features a two-page profile of Robert discussing his musical roots, influences, the music industry past and present, and the journey to forming and performing with Project Grand Slam. Downbeat Profile

In January 2017 Robert and the band recorded a new as yet untitled EP consisting of five new songs. Project Grand Slam’s live show is always red hot and Robert likes to keep the shows fresh with new material. Over the holidays he wrote three new original instrumentals and reimagined two cover songs – Cream’s classic rock tune ‘I’m So Glad’ and ‘Free’ by the beloved jam band Phish.

Robert and the band previously released reimagined covers of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” (feat. Kat Robichaud of The Voice) and The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” (feat. Lucy Woodward), both to rave reviews). Their Kinks cover was praised by Dave Davies of The Kinks, and their video of “You Really Got Me” has been viewed on YouTube over a quarter million times. PGS “You Really Got Me” In total, PGS videos have been viewed over 1 million times worldwide on YouTube and Facebook.

Covering Cream for Robert was a natural extension of his love for 1960s Classic Rock. Cream was one of his favorite bands back then, and Jack Bruce was a special inspiration to Robert’s bass playing. The new version of “I’m So Glad” is a startling departure from Cream’s version, yet maintains links to this classic song.

Covering a more modern band like Phish is a new direction for Robert. As he tells it: “My two sons in law are Phish fanatics and turned me on to the band. They recommended a few songs to me to consider covering including “Free”. I spent a year thinking about “Free” until my version of the song came to me. I love the way that the recording turned out and I hope that Phish and Trey and their fans will too! I so admire what that band has accomplished. I felt that any cover of one of their songs had to be really special because of the band’s huge and very devoted following.”

As for the EP’s original songs, Robert drew on a variety of influences. “Metro Shuffle” was written while he was taking a walk in his hometown of Manhattan, resulting in a gritty New York kind of feel. “Hollywood” was written in California during a vacation and reflects the frenetic pace of that town. And “Fishin” has a totally laid back Island/Jimmy Buffet kind of vibe which Robert says came out of nowhere but has turned into a band and fan favorite.

As 2017 moves forward Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam looks forward to releasing new music, performing at festivals around the United States and wowing audiences with their own brand of inventive, original music.