O’s Place Jazz Magazine
Bassist, composer Robert Miller composed the music for Twenty over a 20-year period as leader of both Project Grand Slam and The Robert Miller Group. There are 16 of Miller’s favorites including “Catch You Later”, “Heat 2007” and “Cakewalk For Debra”. This contemporary jazz seems to age gracefully and the reformed band is appearing at various New York jazz clubs and igniting the flame with this retrospective collection that chronicles Miller’s career.
Acclaimed bassist/composer Robert Miller, who launched his career playing fusion in Boston in the 1970s, has been busy these past two decades with his bands The Robert Miller Group and Project Grand Slam, playing soulful, high energy contemporary jazz with an equal mix of urban funk and fiery rock elements—with the occasional lush ballad thrown in for dreamy pleasure. After a hiatus, we’re happy to report that Project Grand Slam is reassembled and performing again! TWENTY is a fun-filled, retrospective romp with 16 original Robert Miller tunes, including the exciting, brassy single “Catch You Later.” So good, you’ll wish there were 20 tracks on TWENTY!
During his career, New York bassist and composer Robert Miller has been creating jazz music with a lot of different musicians for several decades. He started with solo projects and formed bands like “The Robert Miller Group” and “Project Grand Slam” with some of the best musicians of the genre. Several Grammy-nominations and Top 20 Jazz-Radio-Hits were the result of that creative process.
For his new Album TWENTY, Miller has chosen sixteen tracks from his huge oeuvre, mostly taken from the two releases “Play” (2007) and “Spring Dance” (2012) together with some older songs of Miller’s solo work.
The whole album describes the unique career of Robert Miller and is – at the same time – like a journey through the different styles of Jazz Music of the last twenty years.
The first track STUDIO ONE taken from the album “Play” is a straight smooth jazz song, with a nice Saxophone-line, comparable to the early “Spyro Gyra”, definitely a good opener for the album, while SPRING DANCE, the title track of the 2012 – album is a joyful up-beat number. This song earned him a Top 20 Jazz Radio Hit. CAKEWALK FOR DEBRA, a groovy song with an extended Jazz-Piano solo completes the first part of the record.
BECAUSE SHE SAID SO is a lyrical ballad with an elegiac Saxophone on Solo, followed by the fusion-like FIVE TO SIX with tricky rhythms and an excellent bass-line, building the ground for a rocking keyboard solo. Also Robert Miller shows here his outstanding ability on his bass. The second part of the recording is completed by the bluesy ODE TO JERRY.
MA PETITE FLEUR (My little flower) is a wonderful jazz waltz with a soft Saxophone and a cheerful piano solo, while RIDING THE BERKS and HEAT bring us back to the solid ground of fusion jazz.
CATCH YOU LATER comes along with a fat Brass section, Latin percussion, Hammond-Organ and a playful Fender Rhodes Piano, while the more exotic OUT OF TAHINI is another song with a complicated rhythm-line and an expressive saxophone in the foreground.
STINGER, the longest track on the album, with its reggae-like rhythms and Fender-Rhodes-solos is the most contemporary track on the album. It contains -once again- a brilliant bass solo by Robert Miller. HEAT 2007 is a short reprise of Track 9 in a more stylish and modern arrangement.
The dreamy and balladic RETURN VOYAGE features a soft Saxophone accompanied by the bass with a flange effect and a gentle grand piano. The groovy FLAT BUSTED with a joyful Fender Rhodes Solo completes the third part of the recording.
The Album ends with the powerful CANNONBALL, which sounds like a reminiscence of the old times of “Weather Report” with Joe Zawinul and Jaco Pastorius.
TWENTY is an excellent résumé of twenty years of Robert Miller’s musical career. He and his brilliant musical companions have co-created twenty years in jazz history and hopefully they will go on for the next twenty years!
Robert Miller’s laconic album name has its own undertone. The career of the New-York bassist, as well the leader and composer of The Robert Miller Group, and later Project Grand Slam, has spanned twenty years. The new project consists of his own compositions, recorded in two albums with The Robert Miller Group – Miles Behind (Cakewalk Records 1994) and Prisoners of Love (32 Records 1996), as well as in two albums by Project Grand Slam – Play (Cakewalk Records 2007) and Spring Dance (Cakewalk Records 2012). In other words, the album Twenty represents Robert Miller’s Greatest Hits, as envisioned by Robert Miller.
While listening to this album, I noticed one peculiarity. Even though these compositions were taken from four different albums, there is a full sense of wholeness and unity of the entire project. I can only explain this by Miller’s sequence in performing his own creative ideas for twenty years, showcased on the album cover. The style of Miller’s music can be characterized in different ways: it may be called contemporary jazz, post-fusion, or smooth jazz, although the last “tag”, in my opinion, is the furthest one from the genre. I would like to call it by another name: morning music. What do I mean? There is evening music – calming and relaxing. Miller’s music is quite the opposite. Insert the album Twenty into your music player on the way to work and, trust me, you will arrive to your place of work in a great mood, full of energy and capable of achieving anything!
Robert Miller’s music is imbued with optimism, has a powerful drive, a sharp rhythm, with themes that are memorable and comfortable to the ear. Only several tracks out of sixteen can be described as slow by a stretch, an absolute majority of tracks are fast-tempoed and energetic compositions, based on, as a rule, dynamic interaction of the saxophone, keyboard and rhythm groups. Different tracks have Miller playing with various partners, but this principle is maintained throughout. I would call special attention to Studio One, Heat, and Catch You Later, the latter released as a single. Especially satisfying to me was the fact that Robert included Out Of Tahini, a composition which became my favourite on Play, the debut album of Project Grand Slam.
Even though every composition features saxophone and keyboard, the album leaves enough space to evaluate the personal craftsmanship of Robert Miller as a bassist. Previously, young Miller learned playing intricacies with Jimmy Garrison, John Coltrane’s bassist. But when I hear Robert’s solo, say, on Five To Six, then I rather recall Stanley Clark or the unforgettable Jaco Pastorius. But, it could just be me. Robert Miller is a seasoned veteran in the field of composing and bass playing. Listen to Twenty and see for yourself! – Leonid Auskern
(Translated from the original Russian)
Robert Miller has released his latest record, Twenty, which features 16 of his favorite compositions. The album has been written and recorded over a 20-year period. This album combines the best of what jazz fans have come to love from the genre and also adds some modern elements that grabs the attention of new fans that might not be as familiar with the jazz genre.
This latest effort from Miller features his own work along with some recordings that had been featured with Project Grand Slam and The Robert Miller Group.
This album truly represents a 20-year time span in the life of Robert Miller and features some of the greatest hits of his career from both a musical vision and creative thought process. It is fun for fans to be taken down this journey and hear how jazz has evolved and become a much more modern musical genre that is influencing top 20 hits today that can be heard on the radio.
These compositions have been taken from many different timelines but yet they feel like a cohesive musical piece when fans listen to the album from beginning to end.
This album not only represents Miller’s personal musical journey but it shows the progress that jazz music has really been through over these past twenty years. It feels effortless as each track blends into the next one and makes audiences embrace a whole new musical genre.
Fans of jazz will appreciate the history and process that they are hearing in Twenty because it appeals to fans of classical jazz music and doesn’t try to be something it’s not.
Stand out tracks on the album include, “Cakewalk for Debra,” “Cannonball” and “Catch You Later.” – Chelsea Lewis [4 Stars – Very Good]