Project Grand Slam – Fire single
New York based five piece fusion jazz combo Project Grand Slam, the brainchild of bassist and bandleader Robert Miller, has wowed audiences and jazz festivals nationwide since their 2007 formation. While a small assortment of musicians have passed in and out of the band’s ranks since its birth, they’ve experienced enough success that their music has appeared on popular television shows and consistently maintained a level of musical excellence that characterizes every performance and release. Their latest release, “Fire”, is the first single from their latest album Made in New York and surprisingly covers Jimi Hendrix.
Despite the band’s reputation, this is decidedly not a fusion piece. “Fire” simmers instead with sharp funk edges and a pronounced strain of R&B adding considerable color to the track. It balances pop appeal with gritty atmosphere that does a great job depicting the strong physical lust behind its lyrics. Joel Mateo’s drumming has fantastic swing while nevertheless maintain enough restraint that it doesn’t dominate the spotlight. Guitarist Ben Sher, likewise, never attempts to steal the song’s thunder with needless licks. Instead, he concentrates on strengthening the groove and only occasionally drops in some knife-edged fill.
The production balances the song’s competing musical elements without ever sacrificing the meaty bottom end required to bring this track off. Guest vocalist Kat Robichaud delivers a stunning performance that carries the band’s re-invisioning of the track to its logical conclusion. If Project Grand Slam intended on recording a version of this track that contained more than a spark of their own personalities, they couldn’t have picked a better singer. Robichaud invokes every bit of the passion heard in Hendrix’s original, but she channels it in a far more considered fashion. Her voice bristles with the love of the chance and, at its essence, that’s what this song is about.
The video released for the track gives listeners an impromptu, quasi-tutorial on the band’s intentions. Miller and his bandmasters have realized somewhere along the line that Project Grand Slam’s interests are best served by expanding their stylistic mix. While the band will undoubtedly remain true to their chops-oriented jazz roots, “Fire” clearly shows a music group comfortable with commercializing their sound. This is a vibrant song accessible to everyone. The jam band aesthetic doesn’t get much of a work out here as the band nails down its groove thanks, in part, to its steadiness and clarity.
This is a band trading in on steadiness and clarity. The demanding musical nature of fusion jazz is a discipline that, once learned, can impress listeners mightily and even provoke the perceptive to follow their own Muse. Project Grand Slam is willing to sing and dance a little for us, however, so fans are sure to enjoy this funky little gem. “Fire” is an excellent first single from the band’s new album and shows their fearlessness for exploration.