Project Grand Slam Release “The Shakespeare Concert”

We need more bands like Project Grand Slam. They are a thoroughly contemporary band in the most important respects, their sound is fresh and successfully straddles two worlds, but they likewise are revitalizing timeless fundamentals for modern audiences. The band’s new album The Shakespeare Concert reproduces for listeners the band’s live performance from August 17th, 2021 at Lenox, Massachusetts Shakespeare & Co. center. The organization’s goals are widen theatrical education through William Shakespeare’s plays and Project Grand Slam’s connection with the center has proven mutually beneficial.

The Shakespeare Concert’s first track “I’m Falling Off of the World” hinges on several fiery instrumental turns, especially from the saxophone, but it shows more. It reveals that Project Grand Slam are, without a doubt, a genuine band rather than a handful of instrumental talents competing for listener’s attention.

Bandleader, bassist, and songwriter Robert Miller wants listeners to think and feel, without question, and the fifteen songs included on this release demonstrate that to one degree or another. The primary thrust of the band’s efforts, however, are directed towards entertaining listeners without ever dragging them through darkness. “Take Me” has a rich arrangement boasting all the inventiveness Project Grand Slam can bring to bear. It never comes close to pretentiousness, however – the alternating between its near-churning verses and wide open instrumental breaks is a great listening experience.

There are deliciously bluesy overtones present throughout “Yeah Yeah”. Bassist Robert Miller and his bandmates ride a fat groove for a little over five minutes. Despite the extended running time, compared to other album songs, “Yeah Yeah” never tests listener’s attention spans. The mix of reverb and wah-wah running through Tristan Clark’s guitar work is especially well-suited for the song. Joel Mateo’s irrepressible drumming that leads listeners into “New York Groove” is worth the price of purchase alone. Project Grand Slam, however, builds on that rock solid beat with musical and muscular timekeeping.

“The One I’m Not Supposed to See” incorporates a great deal more of Tristan Clark’s guitar than many of the other performances. It’s one of Marilyn Castillo’s finest vocal outings on the album, as well, and it isn’t difficult to imagine her tearing into this with added gusto if a live audience was providing feedback. “No No No” maintains a brisk pace from the start and Mateo’s crisp runs around his drum kit provide a breezy pulse. Alex Silver Blade has turned in several punchy sax performances over the course of this album and this song rates among his best turns.

Project Grand Slam push asides their customary jazz histrionics in favor of a more considered demeanor during “Stockbridge Fanfare”. Piano plays a much more crucial role in the song’s trajectory than earlier performances and its lighter touch allows musical sunlight to come streaming into songs that, overall, have a strong evening feel. Project Grand Slam’s The Shakespeare Concert isn’t what you’d call an obvious cathartic experience, or at least not a heavy-handed or obvious example of self-expression. It does reflect, however, the head space of its creative imagination and offers modern listeners an impressive cross-section of music.

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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