Trippin' (Coming June 29, 2018)

TMW Interview: Robert Miller/Project Grand Slam


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”


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. 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.


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










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

Film Fest Traveler

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.



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.

The Mac Wire Interview: Project Grand Slam At Cafe Wha?

It’s been quite a year from Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam. We followed the release of their album The Queen’s Carnival (CEN), and all the success they’ve enjoyed. And, next week Miller is hosting a charity-event at the famous Café Wha? in Greenwich Village here in NYC. We managed to speak to Miller during his preparations for the event:

Q: Tell us about next week’s event:

A: We’re giving a free concert next Thursday, Dec. 8th, at 6:30pm, at the historic Café Wha? in Greenwich Village, the place where Dylan and Hendrix first played. I wanted to do a holiday benefit concert as a way of giving back, in appreciation for all the good things that have happened to PGS this past year.

We started our current run the day before Thanksgiving 2015 when we opened for Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) at the Gramercy Theater. During 2016 we performed several dozen times at performing arts centers in NJ, PA and CT, and at various clubs throughout the Tri-state area, including providing support for Boney James (twice) and for Yes.

Q: Tell us about the reception to your current album:

A: In August we released our newest CD, The Queen’s Carnival, which I’m pleased to say has received incredible reviews. Our official and live videos of songs from the album have been viewed over 1 million times worldwide. Along the way we’ve developed a dedicated international fan base in a number of Spanish speaking countries in large part due to the Caribbean-fiesta infused title tune from the album. I’m also very pleased to say that the CD currently is under consideration for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

Q: Tell us about CityMeals:

A: Citymeals is a charity that I’ve long supported. I’ve sent out their holiday greeting cards for over 25 years, which includes a voucher telling the recipient that a donation has been made on their behalf to feed the homebound elderly in NYC. So it was a natural to make Citymeals the beneficiary of the concert.

I also wanted to make it a free concert in order to encourage the biggest turnout. Café Wha? allowed us to do this. And to spice it up even more we decided to give all attendees a free drink and a free copy of “The Queen’s Carnival”. How could anyone refuse?

We’re hoping for a big crowd at the concert, and that they will open up their pocketbooks and make a donation to Citymeals in lieu of an admission charge. We will also be auctioning off a number of very neat items – boxed CD sets, gold records and the like – with the proceeds going to the charity.

Q: How does it feel to have one of the best-selling jazz albums of the year for 2016?

A: The support that we’ve received for The Queen’s Carnival from all quarters – reviewers, fans, purchasers – has been awesome and humbling at the same time. It’s extremely rewarding to an artist when the fruit of their creative endeavors is appreciated. It makes up for all the many unpleasantries that one has to endure along the way!

Q: What are your upcoming shows? Plans for 2017? Europe?

A: The Café Wha? benefit will be our last show in 2016. I’m taking off the rest of December to recharge my batteries and to work on some new compositions. My music team is in the process of lining up our performance schedule for next year.  We have January dates scheduled at Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar (1/8) and at the Groove (1/21), and a May date at the Highland Lakes Concert Series (5/13). We’ll start filling in more dates very soon I’m sure.

I would love to take PGS to Europe, South America and other places. We’ve shown that our music works with every audience – from jazz to rock, from Baby Boomers to Millenials.  I’m sure it will work outside the U. S. too.

Eponymous Review

Project Grand Slam’s Robert Miller chats music, muses and Citymeals

Project Grand Slam is one of those wonderfully undefinable bands. The type of group that effortlessly merges genres to create fun, interesting arrangements of classic tunes and original compositions. Besides being talented musicians, they are also wonderful people who are using the platform of a live concert – taking place at Café Wha? on Dec. 8 – to raise money for the New York non-profit, Citymeals On Wheels.

EpRe got a chance to pick the brain of Project Grand Slam’s composer/leader/bassist, Robert Miller, about his biggest influences, favorite collaborations and what fans can expect from the Dec. 8 show.

Laurie Fanelli: Congratulations on Project Grand Slam‘s The Queen’s Carnival. When you recorded the album, did you ever imagine that it would be such a crossover success?

Robert Miller: Thank you! I set out to write and record an album that was a true combination of my two musical loves – rock and jazz. I grew up playing rock and roll and only discovered jazz when I was about 19. With this album I was hoping to combine the power and groove of rock with the improvisation of jazz. I’m pleased to say that our music – both on record and live – has worked really well with every audience that we’ve played before – from hard rock to smooth jazz, from Millennials to Boomers. So maybe we’re doing something right.

LF: The title track is an intriguing blend of genres. What goes into creating your unique sound?

RM: I always loved artists and recordings that had great diversity. It started for me with the Beatles. An album like The White Album is a masterpiece of different styles. So when I wrote the tunes for The Queen’s Carnival I consciously tried to vary the songs. I didn’t have a checklist of styles, they all just emerged as I was writing.

The creative process is so mysterious to me. I never set out to write a particular song. I simply noodle around and if I’m lucky something just comes to me. If I like it I do a quick little iPhone recording just to preserve it. Then I come back to it later on and see if it still grabs me. If it does I try and finish it off.

When I present a new song to the band I only give them a lead sheet with the melody, basic chords and structure. I rarely tell them what to play. I would much rather see what they come up with. Sometimes it totally surprises me!

For example, with “New Folk Song,” when we started playing it at rehearsal my drummer came up with a figure on the snare drum that sounded almost like a march. But it totally worked. In fact, it gave the song a kind of Celtic feel that I had not anticipated. I loved it and we kept it. And my sax player plays with all these pedals and effects, which I love. It gives him such a distinct sound. I told him to use all the effects and I went so far to say (a bit tongue in cheek) that I would be upset if anyone listening to the record knew that he was playing the sax.

When I wrote the title tune “The Queen’s Carnival,” I was channeling my father, who played trumpet and loved Latin music. He only tuned in to the Spanish stations on the radio. So Latin music was infused into my soul from early on. And it doesn’t hurt that all the guys in my band are Latin. I call them my International Cartel.

LF: I love your cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” What struck you about the original tune?

RM: Like I said, I was a rock and roller initially. I grew up during the British Invasion era of pop music. I loved all the British bands – Beatles, Stones, The Who, etc. – and their U.S. counterparts.

On our prior album, Made In New York, I took a song by Jimi Hendrix that I’ve always loved called “Fire,” and decided to reimagine it. People like covers because the songs are familiar. But I personally don’t like covers where the song sounds just like the original. What’s the point of that? So I set out to take the Hendrix tune and make it my own – not to show him up (I couldn’t do that anyway) but as a kind of tribute. I wanted to keep enough of the original so that people could recognize it, but I wanted to change it around to make it mine and to update it. I used a female singer on the track just to flip the boy/girl thing around – a terrific singer named Kat Robichaud. I think the result was fantastic. And the reviews were spectacular.

So when I was preparing for The Queen’s Carnival, I decided to continue the idea of taking a classic rock song and reimagining it. I always loved The Kinks and “You Really Got Me” was one of their biggest, earliest hits. I always considered it a forerunner to grunge, with that amazing guitar riff and that nasty attitude.



The first time we played my initial vision of it at rehearsal, though, it was awful! It sounded like Sade singing The Kinks at a Bar Mitzvah! Ugh! Totally bland. I knew that I had to toughen it up. So I went back, fiddled with it, and then presented it again to the band with a newer, tougher, edgier concept. And it just worked. Then, having a great singer like Lucy Woodward record it with us again flipped the boy/girl thing around, and it came out wonderful. To then get a lovely endorsement of our version of the song from the great Dave Davies – guitarist and co-founder of The Kinks – was truly icing on the cake. When we play “Fire” and “You Really Got Me” live they get an amazing response!

LF: Who are some of your other musical influences?

RM: Well, musically I came of age so to speak in the jazz fusion era of the 1970s. I adored bands like Weather Report, Chick Corea’s Return To Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Miles Davis’ and Gary Burton’s bands at that time. I’m still not sure why fusion got a bad rap back then because to me it was inspiring and uplifting.

The difference may be that those guys were jazz guys grafting rock into their music, while I’m a rock guy at heart bringing jazz into my music. And sometimes in life what’s old becomes new and is considered differently in a different era. I don’t know anyone else that’s doing exactly what I’m doing (maybe I’m nuts), so we have a fresh sound. We’re the new kids on the block now.

LF: Just by listening to the recordings of Project Grand Slam, it’s obvious that you guys are a live band. How does your music evolve in front of an audience?

RM: Yes, the album was basically recorded live in the studio (the old fashioned way), and playing live is what I enjoy the most. When we resonate with an audience – particularly one that hasn’t heard us before like when we opened for artists like Boney James and Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) – it’s so satisfying and thrilling.

And because we’re not a pop band the music comes out different every time. It’s like a living organism. We respond to the audience, the room, and the makeup of the band for that performance. Each time we play with a different combination of players the songs come out differently. I love that variety. And I try to tailor our presentation to the audience. So for example when we opened for Scott Weiland, or when we opened recently for The Reign Of Kindo – both hard rock oriented and so was their crowd – I told the band to rock out. And rock out we did!

LF: Can you tell me a little bit about the musicians that make up Project Grand Slam and what everyone brings to the table?

RM: I use a kind of rotating cast of musicians in the band, both because they’re in demand and sometimes have conflicts, and also to vary the sound. But they’re all great, young, music school graduates. They bring a level of professionalism, experimentation, passion and energy to the music that is just wonderful. I stand up there as the “mature adult” and sort of direct them while I’m playing with them and grooving to the music. It’s a great experience for me, and I think the audiences appreciate their youthful exuberance.

LF: What can fans expect from your Dec. 8 performance at Cafe Wha?

RM: The Dec. 8th show is special. We’re doing this performance as a benefit for Citymeals on Wheels, a fabulous charity that feeds the homebound elderly in NYC. I’ve supported this charity for years and sent out their holiday cards.

We moved the event to the Café Wha? so that we could do it as a free event. Most of the other venues in town wanted us to charge $25 or so as an admission fee. I wanted the event to be free so that more people would come and hopefully donate more money to Citymeals. We’re doing an auction as part of the event – some neat boxed CD sets, gold records and the like – with all the proceeds going to the charity. Everyone who attends will also get a free drink and a free copy ofThe Queen’s Carnival. Not too bad, huh?

So we’re hoping for a big crowd and to raise a lot of money for Citymeals. The show starts at 6:30 p.m.

LF: Is there anything else you’d like to share with EpRe readers?

RM: We would love to have your readers sign up for our monthly newsletter. Just go to our web site,, to do so. Our site has music, videos, photos, reviews, calendar, etc. Going there is like a mini-vacation.

And we’re looking to find our Super Fans, people who really love our music and the band. We’ve got a neat package of goodies for those folks that are listed on our web site. And these days you have to be active on social media, so people can access us on Facebook and on Twitter.

INTERVIEW: Robert Miller

Interview with Robert Miller

Can you tell us more about your latest single “The Queen’s Carnival”?

“The Queen’s Carnival” is a fun, upbeat, Latin/Caribbean fiesta. A feel good song. My wife always encourages me to write upbeat, fun songs that people can groove to. Every time we play it live the place goes wild – dancing in the aisles. So I knew that this one should be the focal point of the album.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

My father played the trumpet and was a big lover of Latin music. Whenever we were together in the car for example he would have one of the NYC Latin stations on the radio. And that music – particularly the rhythms – just got into my soul. And the guys in my band are all Latin. I call them my International Cartel. So when I was composing the songs for the new album this all came together one evening. “The Queen’s Carnival” came to me in a rush – the rhythm, melody and feel. I literally pictured a carnival as I was writing it, with all the colors and fun that go along with that image. I was originally going to call it “The Queens Carnival” because I grew up in Queens, NY, but I decided that the royal “Queen’s” sounded better and created a wonderful image!

How was the filming experience of the official video?

The official video for the song is a combination of some stock carnival footage together with footage of the band playing the song live. I think that the director did a wonderful job of merging the two. Initially the video ran into some problems on Facebook – they thought it was too racy! How crazy is that? But we worked it out with Facebook and now the video has been viewed over 500,000 times around the world.

Why did you choose to name the album after this track in particular?

Coming up with an album name is always a challenge to me. And because the album has such diversity of material there was no one theme that dominated. In the end my team and I just thought that “The Queen’s Carnival” was a cool, distinctive name for the album – and we were able to come up with a great visual for the album cover.

Can you tell us about the recording and writing process of the album?

I write in a very idiosyncratic manner. Since I play the bass, I’m always thinking about the feel and the groove of a song. So most of the time I come up first with a bass figure which kinds of guides the rest of the creative process. Once I have something that I like I sing a melody to that figure. If I like what I’ve done I then “record” a short demo by recording a snippet to my iPhone! I usually let the idea germinate for a few days and then I go back and listen. If I like what I hear I try and finish off the song.

I pride myself on the diversity of my material. I’ve never been a fan of albums where all the tunes basically sound alike. I’ve always admired artists like the Beatles who made albums with great variety. That’s what I tried for on the new album. So the songs run the gamut from near-hard rock to punk to funk to Latin to Celtic to fusion, with a gentle lullaby thrown in at the end.

When we record an album we do it the old fashioned way – we play the song live in the studio as opposed to recording track-by-track as in pop music. I’m trying to capture the perfect feel. We then do some overdubs where needed, but mostly it’s a live in the studio sound.

On the new album, after we recorded the basics of the title track, I felt that something was missing. It was supposed to be a carnival, a fiesta, but it didn’t quite have a carnival feel. So I got the idea to have my guys – all Latin – go back in the studio, stand around a mic, and overdub fiesta sounds. Whooping and hollering and yelling in Spanish. As if they were at a carnival. That’s what you hear on the final version. It was the cherry on the cake.

You cover a few classic singles (by Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks) – How did you choose which songs to reinvent with your own renditions?

I’m a child of the ‘60s. I grew up with the British Invasion bands and all the great music of that era. In fact, I only played rock music until I was about 19 years old. People like covers because the music is familiar. But I’m not interested in doing a cover that sounds exactly like the original. So I got the notion to “reimagine” a song. To keep enough of it so that the listener can identify it and relate to it, but otherwise to make it my own. I’m not trying to show up the original artist, it’s really a form of homage.

I’ve always loved Hendrix. Who doesn’t? 20 years ago I recorded a version of “Fire” on one of my albums by The Robert Miller Group. It was kind of a psychedelic version. Interestingly, I had Al Foster playing drums for that session. Al played with Miles Davis. He had never played the style that we played for that session. But he nailed it.

When we were getting ready to record the last album, “Made In New York”, I thought about that version of “Fire” and decided to redo my own version. (How’s that for chutzpah?) So I changed it around completely from my older version, and gave it a completely new feel. Kat Robichaud sang the vocal, and I think that the final version is out of sight! And the critics all agreed, as we got incredibly good reviews for that song.

When it came time for the new album I decided to continue the concept of taking a classic rock song and reimagining it. I always loved The Kinks. And “You Really Got Me” is one of my favs. I always considered it to be a forerunner of grunge. It had that great guitar lick and a nasty attitude. I felt like I could take it to another level. Ironically, when we first practiced it, it sounded way too blah for me – like Sade singing it at a Bar Mitzvah. It needed to be toughened up. So I came back the next go round with a new, improved and tougher version – and this one worked right from the get go!

You also get to blur styles/genres on this album – how did your ‘post-fusion’ jazz/rock sound evolve?

Like I said, I was raised on rock. Then I evolved into jazz when I studied for a bit with Jimmy Garrison, John Coltrane’s bassist. But the rock/jazz dichotomy has always been a part of me. I knew when I was writing the songs for the new album that I wanted to have a mix that walked that fine line between rock and jazz. I wanted the power and feel of rock and the improvisation of jazz. I wanted to take fusion to a new level. I may be the only guy out there playing this kind of stuff but this is me. This is my artistic vision. I can only hope that people get it and dig it.

What role does Latin culture play on this album, and why do you think the title track has become so popular among Spanish speaking nations?

Like I said, all my guys are Latin, and I was raised in part on Latin music. The title track embodies all of this. When we put the track out there on the Internet and on Facebook, it immediately resonated in various Latin countries – Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic. Even Italy. But it works
with all audiences because it’s fun and upbeat. When we play live this is the song that gets the loudest and best response.

Where do you find the inspiration for your original songs and lyrics?

Ha! I have no idea! I just do my thing. I try to stay true to my two loves – rock and jazz. When I write something I never fully orchestrate it. I write a lead sheet with the melody and basic chords. I bring it to rehearsal and I let the music evolve. I rarely tell any of the guys what to play. I let them figure it out for themselves. After all, they’re all supremely talented pros. Sometimes I get surprised. So, for example, when I wrote “The Rescue” for the new album, I had in mind “Crossroads” by Cream as the feel that I wanted. But when we played it like that at rehearsal it was totally flat. My guitarist then started playing a James Brown kind of lick, and we all jumped in. And voila – the song was born. I really love when that kind of thing happens.

Any plans to hit the road?

We are concentrating on building a strong following in the tri-state area. We play frequently in NY but also in NJ, CT and PA. And we like to open for people in the bigger venues. So this past year we opened twice for Boney James in two performing arts centers in NJ and PA, we opened for Scott Weiland at the Gramercy Theater in NYC, we opened for The Reign Of Kindo at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, and we were the featured performer at the F.M. Kirby Center in PA.

Our upcoming dates include a special Thanksgiving benefit concert for Citymeals on Wheels at the Iridium in Times Square on Nov. 21st, and a featured performance at the Highland Lakes Concert Series in NJ on Dec. 3rd. Plus we have a monthly residency at a neat club in the Village called The Groove.

What else is happening next in Robert Miller’s world?

Isn’t this enough? But seriously, outside of music I like to spend time with my family – I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for over 40 years, we have two grown, married daughters, and a 16 month old granddaughter who I passionately adore. I wrote and recorded two songs for her – “The Gift (Juliet’s Song)” on the last album, and “Lullaby For Julesy” on the new album. I’m also a big tennis player and a mad fan of the NY Giants!  Visit –


Now in the midst of a six-month residency at Greenwich Village venue The Groove, Project Grand Slam is a New York City-based jazz fusion band with a revolving lineup. Although Project Grand Slam was founded in 2007, leader, composer and bassist Robert Miller has helmed his craft for decades. The group caught a big break when five of its songs were featured on the soundtrack to the NBC series Lipstick Jungle, which starred Brooke Shields, Kim Raver and Lindsay Price.


Robert caught up with Downtown to talk about the residency and what else is coming up for Project Grand Slam. Surprisingly, as I learned, the name of the act — which released a new album last month, The Queen’s Carnival — has nothing to do with baseball. However, that does not mean that Robert does not have plenty of pride for some New York sports teams.


A lot of your songs were used on Lipstick Jungle. How did that come about?

Robert Miller: Our former manager was friendly with one of the show’s producers. They needed a band for an episode and we were chosen. They wound up using five of our songs on the soundtrack, and I had a small speaking part as well — scariest thing I’ve ever done professionally!

Your band is doing a residency in Greenwich Village. How do the shows compare to one another?

RM: Our monthly residency is at The Groove. It’s a neat little club with a cool ambiance and a great sound. Some of the shows I do completely instrumental, and others I add our singer Ziarra. I like variety! The band’s lineup also changes from show to show depending upon who is available and which combinations I want. Our set includes the tunes on our new album, The Queen’s Carnival. Despite the lineup differences, the band is always totally rehearsed and on!

Had you performed at The Groove before starting this residency?

RM: No.

Who’s in the current Project Grand Slam lineup?

RM: The guys on the album are Joel E. Mateo on drums and percussion, Marcello Casagrandi on keyboards, Mario Castro on sax, and Yasser Tejeda on guitar. After the album was recorded, I added a full-time percussionist, Guillermo Barron Rios, who gives the music so many colors and flavors. Ziarra Washington is my go-to incredible singer. My other key players from time to time are Willy Rodriguez on drums, Flavio Silva on guitar, and Gabriel Chakarji, Baden Goyo and Takahiro Izumikawa on keys. Everyone is from another country. I call them my “international cartel!”

What’s coming up for you after your residency wraps?

RM: Our residency currently runs thru 2016 and we hope that it will continue into 2017. But we play many other concerts too. Coming up we are opening — again — for Boney James on Oct. 19 at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Conneticut, opening for Reign of Kindo on Nov. 2 at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, and performing at the Highland Lakes Concert Series on Dec. 3 in New Jersey.


Robert Miller of Project Grand Slam

When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?

RM: My family is the most important thing to me. I have a 15 month old granddaughter who is the light of my life. In fact, I wrote a song for her on the new album, called “Lullaby For Julesy,” which closes the record. I also play a lot of tennis, and I’m a mad fan — and season ticket holder — of the New York Giants!

Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?

RM: My wife and I love diners! We’ve got one in our neighborhood that we adore.

Favorite music artists?

RM: I rely on my wife to tell me who’ happening! My personal tastes run to jazz fusion — no surprise — and ’60s rock and roll. In fact, I’ve played with a ’60s band on the side for the last six years!

Per your band’s name, are you a big baseball fan? Go to any games at Citi Field this year?

RM: A lot of people think that the name Project Grand Slam has something to do with baseball or tennis. Actually, I got the name from the James Bond film Goldfinger, where the plot to steal the gold from Fort Knox was called “Project Grand Slam” — except it wasn’t! I learned belatedly that in the movie it was called “Operation Grand Slam.” As far as baseball goes, I’ve always been a big fan. I grew up as a Yankees fan, but recently I’ve added in the Mets because my family loves them.

Finally, Robert, any last words for the kids?

RM: It’s taken me 30 years of playing and writing to get to where I am now. But I couldn’t be happier. I’m playing my music, as I want it played, with fantastic musicians. Take the long view!

Master Musician Robert Miller Make Project Grand Slam His Mission

With his dark shades and black/white garb on stage, master bassist Robert Miller seems like a cool cat out of a 1950s Hollywood casting of a jazz musician. But he’s much more than that. The 60-ish player is leader of Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam, a band formed nearly 10 years ago to perform a fusion of rock and jazz that’s both familiar and fresh.

“I am as much a product of rock as I am of jazz,” Miller acknowledged in a recent conversation in midtown Manhattan. “I love them both equally.”

Over a salad lunch, the New York born and bred Miller outlined his valiant effort not only to keep a sound initially made popular in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, but advance it using a young generation of musicians not necessarily schooled in the same influences as he was. He draws on a pool of talented, mostly foreign born musicians, what he calls, “my international cartel.”

To that, the plucky player with an energy beyond his years added, “All my guys are trained musicians who have gone to schools like Berklee in Boston. If I need someone  — a great saxophonist say — for a certain date I contact them and they give me recommendations. It always works out fine.”

The band currently plays an ongoing monthly residency at a Greenwich Village music den called The Groove NYC. There he works out new tracks, or unique arrangements for covers of rock classics done with a unique twist.

One such cover performed during their July date was the second single off The Queen’s Carnival, theirlatest album: a cover of The Kinks’ great rock hit “You Really Got Me,” with guest vocalist Lucy Woodward. It’s getting attention; Kinks‘ co founder Dave Davies even gave his endorsement.

Miller’s PGS continues to play many other venues as well. In May 2016 the band opened for four-time Grammy Award nominee Boney James at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in New Jersey. In July, the band was the featured performer at the Kirby Center For The Performing Arts in Pennsylvania. In August the band performed at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia and was the after-show for YES at Garcia’s at The Capitol Theater in NY.

Miller further noted, “We’ve played before a rock audience. We played a gig in November at the Gramercy Theater in NYC — we opened for Scott Weiland formerly of Stone Temple Pilots a week before he passed. We were one of three other acts — all hard rock bands like Weiland’s. We played before a completely rock audience and it went great. I knew then that we could play before any audience.”

While bandleader Miller is a high-minded jazz aficionado possessed of chops equal to any living jazz great — having been trained by the likes of Jimmy Garrison — his influences range beyond the usual that the jazz genre reflects today. That’s because, like it did with so many young people of his generation, the ‘60s British Invasion had a pivotal impact on his musical education.

And, it provided much of the spark that pushed Miller into playing bass guitar rather than a horn or keyboards. Project Grand Slam has, to quote one critic referring to their latest single, “The Rescue” — “a timeless, youthful passion.”

He laughs, “I became a bass player when I was 13, playing in a rock band formed with friends. We all had acoustic guitars that we were learning to play that we made into electric guitars by taping a microphone from a small reel-to-reel tape recorder onto the guitar.

“We bought Beatles sheet music and we noticed that there was a line on the bottom for the bass clef. I already played the trumpet so I knew the treble clef while my buddies were struggling to learn it. So I volunteered to learn the bass clef. And my entire musical career evolved from that!”

In those days, from high school during the ’60s until the early ’70s, Miller played in or fronted rock and roll bands. Four bassists — Paul McCartney, Cream’s Jack Bruce, BS&T’s Jim Fielder, andVanilla Fudge’s Tim Bogert — were crucial inspirations at that time. In the ‘70s he became a fixture in the Boston music scene as a founding member of a jazz fusion band, playing with acclaimed musicians such as Sonny Stitt, Jaki Byard, and Anton Fig.

In the 1990s, The Robert Miller Group was formed. The band’s first CD, Child’s Play (1994), featured several self-penned compositions and included guest musicians Fig, Randy Brecker, Jon Lucien, Al Foster, Tim Reis and Tony “Thunder” Smith. The band played the Telluride Jazz Festival, the San Bernadino Jazz Festival, the NYC Downtown Jazz Festival and many well known clubs including The Blue Note and Birdland.

Along the way, he learned the music business, both the legal and label managing aspects, as well as musically, which lent him the confidence to soldier on releasing four other albums on his own terms before this latest one. PGS also had a featured role in the hit NBC-TV series Lipstick Jungle starring Brooke Shields, with five of Millerʼs tunes on the soundtrack.

As Miller noted, “The core group of musicians that I work with are he ones who did the new album — and all but one will be there on August 16th when the band officially celebrates the release of The Queenʼs Carnival“, distributed by Sony/RED. The new album — which is officially out on the 19th — features nine original tunes written by Miller including the premiere single “The Rescue.” Mostly instrumental, it is textured and diverse, applying influences from Latin to Celtic and everything in between, while staying true to the PGS sound.

The record is more rock oriented than his previous works. “My main sax player plays with effects and pedals. I love the sounds that he gets — they work great with the band.”

He added, “On the record I have three songs that I call my arena songs because when I wrote them I visualized that they could be perfect for a big arena: “Gorilla”, “Lucky Seven” and “Beyond Forever”. The latter is really a tribute to one of my favorite groups, Return To Forever and [its leader] Chick Corea, a major influence. I love all these guys [identified with fusion such as Miles Davis] but I do not set out to reproduce what they do. I combine influences.

As outlined in Wikipedia, “Jazz fusion — also known as jazz-rock — is a musical genre that developed in the late 1960s when musicians combined aspects of jazz harmony and improvisation with styles such as funk, rock, rhythm and blues and Latin jazz. During this time many jazz musicians began experimenting with electric instruments and amplified sound for the first time, as well as electronic effects and synthesizers. Many of the developments during the late 1960s and early 1970s have since become established elements of jazz fusion musical practice.”


And that pretty well sums up what one gets either listening to the recorded band or seeing them live in one of their permutations. The only question is, “How much of an audience is there for jazz fusion?” There’s alway been a serious jazz audience, but that’s been for classic straight ahead jazz.

Says Miller, “I know that straight ahead jazz has an audience but it’s not my niche. I didn’t want to go down that path. For a number years, I’ve been considered a contemporary jazz artist but that’s a very open designation. So many things go into that [label]. Nor is smooth jazz my thing.”

“And these forms don’t reflect the other aspect of my career — the rock n roll which I played for 20 years like the British Invasion stuff. I’ve taken classic rock and tried to reimagine what I grew up with. I looked for a way and went down the middle between rock and jazz. Some have called it fusion; there’s no other name I have for it. It has the power and beat of rock but the improvisational complexity of jazz. I’ve looked for the middle ground and in my search for it I’ve come up with Project Grand Slam.”

The MW Interview With Bassist Robert Miller


by G.H. Harding

MILLER’S CROSSING — We’ve tub thumped bassist Robert Miller and his group,Project Grand Slam in this column. Now, with their new album (their 4th) The Queen’s Carnival being properly released next month (via CEN/RED), we went for an in-depth behind-the-scenes conversation with Mr. Miller: 

Tell us about the new album The Queen’s Carnival? How does it progress from the previous one?

This album was much more faithful to my two musical loves – rock and jazz, and I feel like I was able to combine them as never before. This is the album that I’ve been building towards my entire professional career.

You played the F. M. Kirby Center in Wilkes Barre (PA) last week and we heard it was terrific … and, you streamed it! Tell us about it and what made it such a memorable performance?

First of all the venue is historic, dating from the early 1900’s when F.M. Kirby founded it (as well as the town of Wilkes-Barre!). Second, the band was really hot! We played like our lives were on the line! Third, we were able to live stream the event over our Facebook page all around the world. How cool is that? As of this writing the concert has been viewed by over 13,000 people, just a few more than were in attendance at the Kirby Center!

We read about your bass-guitarist influences recently; what do you love most about the instrument?

The way that I play bass I’m dictating and controlling the vibe and feel of every song. It’s like a conductor waving his baton at a full orchestra. I guide the emotional and musical feel of the music – which is an awesome joy!

Tell us about working with The Voice’s Kat Robichaud? And, about Lucy Woodward?

I guess I’ve got a thing for beautiful, talented female singers! And the songs that I picked for them to sing (“Fire” and “You Really Got Me”) are quintessential guy songs. So in addition to reimagining the song and making it my own, I’m flipping the entire feel by having it sung by a woman instead of a man. And these two ladies just owned the songs!

How did you come to choose the song by The Kinks? (“You Really Got Me”) Does the audience get it right away?

I’m a baby boomer and a child of the 60’s. I grew up on the Beatles, Stones and the British Invasion bands. I played only rock and roll until I was 19. This music is in my DNA. “You Really Got Me”is one of the hardest, edgiest songs ever recorded. The Kinks were the forerunner of grunge. I loved that song. What better tribute to the Kinks and Ray Davies then to take his song of 50 years ago and give it a new set of clothes! So far the audiences have loved it!

The album is out August 19 and I know you’re holding an event at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC for it. Will you and the band be performing at it as well?

Is the Pope Catholic? Of course we’ll perform! We’re looking forward to playing for about 30 minutes – about 5 or 6 songs from the new album. Enough to get the audience ready for the free drinks afterwards!

The music business today seems to be evolving everyday; first from a singles-market, then to an album one, and then back to a singles-one. I know that the first single from the new album (“The Rescue”) made a lot of noise and the next one is The Kinks re-worked one. Did you have a cover in mind when you began this album?

Yup. I knew that I wanted to try “You Really Got Me”. But I went through a few iterations with it before I got the feel that I wanted. The first time we played it it sounded like Sade singing at a Bar Mitzvah – totally bland! I knew I had to toughen it up. So I told my sax and guitar players to rock out. And voila!

Tell us about the players in your group.

I play with a rotating cast of young, supremely talented, music school educated, mainly foreign born musicians. I call them my International Cartel. And their leader is a guy who grew up in Queens, NY!

Social Media – how much of it is a plus for you and PGS?

I’m still trying to figure out the whole social media thing. My biggest problem is that it’s a very “cool” medium – it takes no effort and no commitment to “Like” something on Facebook or any of the other sites. Translating “Likes” into actual fans that come out to see you perform and buy your albums and songs is a big hurdle. And the other thing that’s daunting is the world has really gone from CDs to downloads and now to streaming – and the artists get paid next to nothing for a stream. So music has sadly evolved into a nearly-free calling card.

I know you’ve played Lucille’s at B. B. King’s and The Cutting Room in NYC and you have a monthly a residency at The Groove in Greenwich Village. Where else would you like to play in the city?

Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall and the Ed Sullivan Show!