There aren’t many crossover genres as universally-respected and revered as jazz fusion, and among its modern day players, Robert Miller has a status that is truly his and his alone. As the creative leader and bassist in Project Grand Slam, he’s been wowing critics and audiences everywhere he can reach for years with a slew of versatile sounds journalists have been deemed impossible to pigeonhole outside of a generic fusion labeling, but as a solo artist, his debut Summer of Love is presenting us with a lot more to learn about his songcraft. Miller is a consummate professional, and if that wasn’t obvious to everyone listening beforehand, it’s made all the clearer in this latest work.
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Aesthetical impurities are pretty much everywhere we look and listen in Summer of Love, but this isn’t to suggest that they’re somehow out of place when looking at the basic blueprint for most of the material in this tracklist. “The Night Was a Mystery” and “Bourbon Street” have a dirty edge conflicting with the lusty pop features in “Heaven” and “You Can’t Tell the Truth,” but the two stylistic counterparts mesh together here mostly because of the swagger Miller brings with him to every given performance on this disc.
Despite the abrasive attack of the players in a few spots (“Bip Bop,” “Aches and Pains”), every harmony in this LP feels deliberate and arranged as to reflect a deeper emotionality lyrics could never have been tasked to get across all on their own. Miller doesn’t slack on his poetic output here, but as it tends to be with most string-players who break away from their band for a little time as a solo artist, the instrumentation is going to be the bread and butter of the catharsis we find in 90% of the content in the album.
Production quality has never been an issue for Robert Miller in any of the music he’s recorded in the past, and per the norm, it’s superb from top to bottom in Summer of Love. We don’t have to get past any intrusive synthetics, nor any of the other artificialities that have started to weight the pop/rock world and even a lot of music from the indie fusion community in recent times — from “Heaven” to “New Life (Annie’s Song),” we’re getting all meat, zero fat and almost no visible bones defining the mood of the LP as a complete piece.
Those who were holding out for some top-notch, funky jazz-rock to kick off the autumn season in 2020 really need to hear Summer of Love as soon as possible, and I say that being a rather discriminating critic to satisfy when it comes to fusion and its closest cousins in the tree of contemporary western music. It’s been said plenty of times before, but it really is incontrovertibly true that Miller has a talent that only blesses a handful of players across every generation, and he’s doing everything he can to make that talent produce incredible chills in this debut solo masterpiece.