Made In New York
Reviews for “Made In New York”
Pittsburgh In Tune
I’m not a big fan of jazz fusion, so didn’t really know what to expect when Project Grand Slam’s latest long-player, “Made in New York” came across my desk a couple weeks ago. I’m happy to report that the Robert Miller-fronted collective — which includes Marcello Casagrandi, Nathan Cepelinski, Ben Sher and Joel E. Mateo — are on top of their game throughout a nine-track, 36-minute release that proved to be much more enjoyable than I expected going in. Guest vocalist Kat Robichaud lends her vocal gifts on two of the album’s best cuts in “New York City Groove” and the Jimi Hendrix cover “Fire.” Additional keepers include “Around the Horn,” “Boston Common” and the set-closing “New York City Groove (Instrumental).” For an added treat, Project Gland Slam include a pair of live cuts — “Because She Said So” and “Cakewalk for Debra” — recorded live at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. Great stuff!.
Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam combines jazz, rock and fusion in an incredibly digestible sound. The band sounds great right from the get go with “New York City Groove”, an irresistible slice of melodic fusion with grooving bass and tasty guitar and sax trading solo spots. The sultry vocals of Kat Robichaud are a perfect match. More delicious fusion can be found in “The Winner”. Choppy guitar rhythms and melodic sax work form the core of the song. In “Around The Horn” the tempo is a little slower with its slinky groove and jazzy piano motifs. The lovely ballad “The Gift (Juliet’s Song)” has an aura of sentimentality with its heartwarming melody and gorgeous sax solo. A remake of the Hendrix classic “Fire” is another winner, again featuring the soulful vocals of Robichaud. Made In New York, to put it simply, is a damn fine album with great grooves and unforgettable melodies. Top shelf stuff for sure! – Jon Neudorf (4 stars)
I’ve reviewed the jazz fusion band Project Grand Slam before. I’ve really enjoyed the group’s music. So I was really interested their newest album. Was it going to be as good as the band’s previous work? I listened to the new album and I wasn’t disappointed. It was fantastic!
The album is Made In New York. It has nine songs and a play time of thirty-six minutes.
The members of Project Grand Slam are Robert Miller, Marcello Casagrandi, Nathan Cepelinski, Ben Sher and Joel E. Mateo.
Robert is the bass player and leader of the group. His work stretches all the way back to the 1970’s, when he was a founding member of the Boston area jazz fusion band, Sagov. Robert is also a composer and founded the independent record label, 32 Records. Keyboardist Marcello is originally from Cuba where he studied at the Havana Music Conservatory. Eventually he attended and graduated from the Berklee College of Music. Besides Project Grand Slam, Marcello has worked with Ray Santisi, Hal Cook, The Funk Junkies and many others. Another Berklee graduate, saxophonist Nathan has composed scores for Lifetime and Syfy cable network productions. Nathan has worked with people such as Bob Mintzer, Roy Hargrove and Terri Lyne Carrington. An associate professor at the Berklee College of Music, guitarist Ben is the leader of his own band, the Brazilian Jazz group Tudo Bem. He has also played with the likes of Gunther Schuller and Deborah Latz. Joel is the drummer for the group. His work includes playing with international artists Tego Calderon, Pedro Martinez, Mitch Frohman and several others.
Joining the members of Project Grand Slam on two of the songs on the album is Kat Robichaud. She was featured on the fall 2013 season of The Voice. Although she was eliminated in that competition, Kat has done well for herself. Before The Voice, Kat was the vocalist for a group called The Design. These days Kat has another group, Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits. This year the group released a self-titled album.
All of the songs on Made in New York, with one exception, were composed by Robert Miller. Two of the songs were recorded live at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. The first song is New York City Groove. The title says it all. It is a very cool, head bopping, toe-tapping tune. It is also the first song on the album to feature the vocals by Kat Robichaud. Her vocals fit well with the music, lyrical with just a hint of toughness.
The Winner is the second song. Starting with a simple bass guitar groove, the song moves forward with a strong sax presence. It too has a head-bopping, toe-tapping beat. There is a really cool guitar and keys solos in the middle of the song. Sliding into a more subtle groove is the song Around The Horn. This front end of the song has the saxophone highlighted. Then the guitar kicks in and there is some really cool keyboard too. The Gift (Juliet’s Song) is a beautiful, soft and gentle ballad. From there, the album transitions right into the smoking hot rendition of the Jimi Hendrix song, Fire. It is the other song to feature the vocals of Kat Robichaud. Kat’s vocals here are sultry with a seductive toughness. Although this is a jazz groove arrangement of the classic Hendrix rock song, it is the best rendition I’ve ever heard.
Boston Common is a very busy song. It made me think of a busy urban street and the people hurrying along on it. Because She Said So begins slow and easy. It then moves into a slightly faster groove with a lot of sax and drum. It is one of the songs that was recorded live at the Blue Note Jazz Club. Cakewalk For Debra is the other song that was recorded live at the Blue Note Jazz Club. Robert prefaces the song by saying he wrote it for his girlfriend (who later became his wife). It is a slower groove song that where you can almost imagine the playfulness of romancing the girl. The album closes with an instrumental version of New York City Groove. Although the instrumental version was fine, the version with the Kat Robichaud vocals was excellent.
Made In New York has the just the right kind of music for a jazz fusion groove album. There is great guitar and cool keyboard and drums. Even though I didn’t mention the bass playing earlier, it supports the other instruments well. And as I am a huge fan of sax music, I really enjoyed it on the album as well. But I guess what I liked most about the album were the two songs with vocals by Kat Robichaud.
Speaking of Kat Robichaud, she filmed music videos for her two songs on the album. The first, New York City Groove, features the band along with Kat. The second, Fire, is a sizzling video that features Kat and a lot of other sultry, seductive women. Made In New York will officially be out on October 16th. But the singles Fire and New York City Groove are already available on iTunes. Portions of the proceeds from the sales of the New York City Groove single are being donated to New York City based arts and cultural non-profit organizations whose main recipients are underprivileged and inner-city children. – Bruce Von Stiers
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
There is nothing like a good jazz album to give you a renewed appreciation for the art and fascination that music can bring. With that thought Project Grand Slam seems to always come through for me. Their new release Made In New York is a diverse outing giving the listener a good look at all the facets of their talent in one recording. If you like jazz with or without vocals it is all here on this one album and some live cuts to close the curtain and sweeten the pot as well.
“New York City Groove (Instrumental)” illustrates the broad strokes this band can paint on the musical canvas. The opening track is the vocal version featuring Kat Robichaud and the closer being the instrumental. PGS makes sure that their audience gets the best of what they have to offer and it is not illustrated any better than on that particular track.
“Fire”, a Jimi Hendrix classic for the ages, is transformed (see the steamy video provided with Kat on vocals) and was also featured on the Rate The Tracks site for your streaming pleasure. There are some listeners that will think otherwise I am sure but the band puts it all together and makes the track their own. Putting your own stamp on a time tested classic is not an easy task. This is why I believe this band has the talent and range to do just about anything.
“Boston Common” is a superb instrumental jazz track; it just does not get much better. This is modern jazz that takes the foundation laid down by the forefathers of the genre and cranks up the heat to take it all to another level. It reminds me of why I was spell bound by this music when I first discovered it.
Made In New York is not only a testament to the great talent in the band, it is a tribute to jazz fusion that all music lovers will find an appreciation for. Music like this has soul, character and culture all wrapped up into one tight package that is hard to resist.
Key Tracks: Fire, Boston Common, New York City Groove (Instrumental)
Made In New York is very “hot” in every way. Inside the cover’s lights of the big city you will find very hot music. This is not surprising if you remember the previous two albums by Project Grand Slam.
The band was organized in 2007 by Robert Miller, the New York bassist and composer. Reviews of the first two albums of the band, Play (2008) and Spring Dance (2012), can be found on our website. There’s also more detail including the history of the team, and on the creativity of Miller.
Here one can immediately notice that the Made In New York artist appears in a completely new international line-up with his partners: the keyboardist Marcello Casagrandi, Cuban with Italian roots, saxophonist Nathan Cepelinski , a native of Canada, and the drummer Joel Mateo, a native of Puerto Rico. Robert Miller shows in the new work different sides of the creative activity of Project Grand Slam. The album includes two singles that have already achieved great success, New York City Groove and the latest Fire. The first of them is a composition dedicated by its author, Robert Miller, to his New York hometown. The second is a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s famous composition.
In both cases, the band has invited young singer Kat Robichaud, who gained fame due to her successful participation in NBC’s The Voice. The vocal version of New York City Groove opens the album, and on the already established tradition on the previous albums, is included in a purely instrumental version at the end, which gives the whole album a kind of rondo general character.
There are two live recordings – Because She Said So and Cakewalk for Debra – performed by Project Grand Slam at the famous New York club Blue Note. The rest of the album consists of studio recordings. It should be noted that Robert Miller composed all of the songs on the album except for Fire. The album has a good groove and tempo, and bright, catchy themes – the overall musical atmosphere being fusion.
This was also inherent in Project Grand Slam’s earlier albums and is continued in the new album. The two live recordings have a more expanded form, with long solos by Cepelinski, Sher and Casagrandi. The studio tracks are more concise, aimed at a wider audience. I would compare the music of Project Grand Slam in this album with the behavior of a professional boxer – easy movement, like dancing, moving around the ring, but with lightning accurate strikes. The saxophone and keyboard solos are subordinated to the rhythmic pattern of each composition. New York City Groove, Around the Horn, and Boston Common are all very good and “fall on the ear”, while at the same time demonstrating a good balance between the commercial attractiveness and richness of the music. – Leonid Austern