East Side Sessions by in Project Grand Slam

As rousing as the words in Project Grand Slam’s “Juliet Dances” are, the verses in this track, and all twelve on the new album East Side Sessions, are but one gem to behold in its contents. Conveyed by Marilyn Castillo, the lyricism afforded to songs like this one, the chugging “I’m Falling Off of the World” and “It Is a Miracle to Me” is designed to complement the intensity of the musicianship here rather than the other way around. This is as full-bodied an alternative fusion LP as you’re going to find in May 2020, and I doubt I’m the only critic (or fan) saying so right now.

The bassline in “Hey Jake,” “The One I’m Not Supposed to See” and “I Wanna Be Your Girl” is incredibly potent, but never overstated in the master mix. There’s never an occasion on which any of Robert Miller’s low-end tonality penetrates the harmony between the vocal and the other melodic components here; these arrangements are simply too tight to allow for such excess. It pays to be efficient in this style of jazz, and Project Grand Slam set a good example for their younger contemporaries in this latest release for sure.

There’s a forceful percussive punch that comes seemingly out of nowhere in the country crossover tune “The Pardners,” “It Don’t Matter” and “The Week” that I don’t imagine I’ll forget in the months ahead. Project Grand Slam have always had a way of inserting pulsating grooves when and where we need them the most in their albums, but in this case, they’re unpredictably scattered throughout the tracklist of East Side Sessions like colorful Easter eggs in a church field. I myself love the temperamental aggression – it sets even the most traditional of moments in this LP apart from the rest in the best way possible.

This album has an intoxicating flow that swept me away from the get-go, and compared to the PGS7, I think this is a far more fluid set of songs. It’s easy to lose track of time when absorbing the freeform harmonies of “It Is a Miracle,” “Stockbridge Fanfare,” “Tessa” and “The Pardners” without interruption from the outside world, and that’s precisely how I would tell audiences to listen to East Side Sessions if they’ve got the means this spring. Mandatory quarantines have kept most of the world indoors for the last month-plus, but courtesy of indie players like Project Grand Slam, 2020 won’t be devoid of a coveted spring soundtrack at all.

I expected a lot coming into this analysis of the new Project Grand Slam LP, but I’m happy to say that all twelve songs on East Side Sessions satisfy every desire I had prior to playing it through for the first time. Robert Miller’s critically acclaimed jazz vehicle is going stronger than ever in this release, and in time, I think it will probably be considered one of the most unified this group has put out. It’s hard not to adore this band, and moreover, the love they put into every song they record.

Nicole Killian

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Nicole loves to go cross country skiing, swimming, reading and critiquing books, listening and critiquing music, some culinary arts, pottery, spending time with my daughter, cheesy horror films.

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