Pieces of a Dream - Soul Intent (2009)

Pieces of a Dream
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The members of Pieces of a Dream have been performing together for more than 30 years - a fact that I find amazing only if viewed from an R&B standpoint rather than a jazz standpoint. Jazz musicians often perform in more than one group - both as leaders and sidemen - so the fact that one or more persons can leave the band without that development creating the headlines or upheaval that follows when a lead singer leaves a pop group is not really all that surprising.

Still, the lengthy careers of keyboardist James Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon is striking in one important sense - Pieces of a Dream is a part of the musical legacy of Grover Washington, Jr., who discovered the band. Pieces of a Dream released its first album in 1981 as a part of Washington's production company. That record - the self-titled Pieces of a Dream - came out a year after Washington released his critically and popularly acclaimed "Winelight" album.

The members of Pieces of a Dream have been performing together for more than 30 years - a fact that I find amazing only if viewed from an R&B standpoint rather than a jazz standpoint. Jazz musicians often perform in more than one group - both as leaders and sidemen - so the fact that one or more persons can leave the band without that development creating the headlines or upheaval that follows when a lead singer leaves a pop group is not really all that surprising.

Still, the lengthy careers of keyboardist James Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon is striking in one important sense - Pieces of a Dream is a part of the musical legacy of Grover Washington, Jr., who discovered the band. Pieces of a Dream released its first album in 1981 as a part of Washington's production company. That record - the self-titled Pieces of a Dream - came out a year after Washington released his critically and popularly acclaimed "Winelight" album.

Washington died in 1999, which means that - at 28 years and counting as recording artists - the album making phase of the career of Pieces of a Dream is about as long as that of their departed mentor.

Soul Intent, the band's latest record, showcases what Pieces of a Dream learned from Washington. Washington was the absolute best at fusing R&B and jazz together in a way that paid tribute to both. Lloyd and Harmon maintain the head nodding melodies of the funk and R&B that they grew up listening to, while still managing to deliver solos that are creative and swing. The group keeps the cover versions of R&B songs to the barest of minimums. In fact, all but one song is on this 11 track CD is an original. That one cover, "Give U My Heart," is the one track where Pieces plays it conservatively. As such, the song is pleasant enough, but it doesn't deliver the goods like "APB," a cut that combines funk, jazz and rock in a series of guitar riffs and funky solos that create and always manage to return to melodic theme.

Other highlights include the mellow "Hindsight," the title track and Caribbean tinged "D Fuse the Situation." In Soul Intent, Pieces of a Dream has created an album that is light enough to attract mainstream attention, but heavy enough not to be relegated to background music. This is a record that will become a part of any conversation. Recommended.

Howard Dukes

 
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