Project Grand Slam’s latest album titled PGS 7 is a thrilling thirteen song studio release further cementing them as one of, regardless of genre, the best bands working today. It kicks off with the cut “Yeah Yeah”, a mainly instrumental track punctuated with a brief but very satisfying vocal from the outstanding Ziarra Washington. It has a great melody led by saxophone player Mario Castro, but other band members like guitarist Tristan Clark, percussionist Guillermo Barron Rios, drummer Joel E. Mateo, and bassist Robert Miller distinguish themselves as well. The album’s first single “Redemption Road” is much more of a traditional song than instrumental and Washington imbues the introspective lyrical content with a tremendous amount of soul, particularly hitting her stride during the chorus. It has a slightly more laid back feel compared to the opener, but this only illustrates how the band capably shifts gears while still retaining momentum.
The percolating Latin influences defining “Take Me” fall well within the band’s musical wheel house for those familiar with the band and the arrangement is especially intelligent. There’s a certain amount of moodiness permeating the track, but it’s never laid on too thick and contrasts nicely with Washington’s powerful vocal range. Miller’s bass playing lays the fat foundation for the instrumental “Python” and you can’t help but be entertained by his strong connection with drummer Mateo, but keyboardist Baden Goyo makes his presence felt as well. It’s the album’s shortest track but a fully immersive experience. The sixth track “Get Out” has a strong streak of rock running through its identity and a low key hint of menace. There’s some snarling wah wah peppering the track as well, but nothing is ever overstated in the band’s tunes and this song is no exception.
The uptempo jazzy flair of “No One’s Fool” boasts some delightful piano runs and wailing sax from Castro. Washington reins in the full on wail of her voice in favor of conforming to the character of the music at hand; it’s a mark of the extensive talent she brings to the table. Castro takes a solo full of unexpected but delightful raunch. A cover of the classic “The ‘In’ Crowd” is the latest in a long line of tracks demonstrating the band’s ability to claim legendary tunes as their own while still paying respect to the originals. Like the previous tune, Washington gives us a nuanced and atmospheric vocal rather than bowling us over with vocal power. It’s one of the more lustrous gems included on a release rife with jewels.
The album ends on a deeply thoughtful note with the track “Tree of Life”. This song, written in response to the Parkland High School shootings, is a surprising meditative conclusion to the album, yet brings the release to a graceful end. Washington’s deeply emotive vocal is the highlight, but the lyrics are exceptional and Goyo supports her with elegant piano playing. This studio album from Project Grand Slam is, arguably, their best release yet and the most impressive fact is that, for me, it hints they may not have even hit their peak yet.