February 24, 2009

Pieces of a Dream – Soul Intent

Anyone who’s followed the smooth/contemporary jazz genre for any considerable amount of time has become dearly familiar with the Philly duo, Pieces of a Dream, who’ve withstood the test of time (practically 3 decades together!) with grace, elegance, and an equal dose of good ol’ feel-good funk. In addition to providing some of the most memorable rhythms and melodies ever captured in smooth jazz, keyboardist James Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon have been mainstays in writing and producing for as long as I can recall, often unselfishly offering their talents to other heavyweights in the business. Their latest venture, Soul Intent, is a commentary on maintaining some old-school values that, in my opinion, should always go into making a quality album, like the gathering of all principal musicians in the studio simultaneously rather than relying on technology to bring the groove together.

I see that this “back to basics” approach is appealing to a growing number of other artists in the industry now, and it’s pretty clear as to why that’s the case. There’s a lot to be said for the energy, the vibe, that intangible “something” that’s thrown into the mix and makes everything just come together so perfectly in a groove-rich blend. Maybe it’s the look on a band member’s face at a given point in the tune or tunes; maybe it’s just simply that irreplaceable chemistry from vibin’ off another’s vibe. Whatever it is, Pieces of a Dream has tapped it and molded it to perfection as evidenced on this latest project.

This latest gem opens with “Sway On,” a classy, up-tempo jam graced with another of Lloyd’s tell-tale magnetic hooks and further enhanced by the sharp and delightful sax work of Tony Watson, Jr., who provides us with many more sweet runs on this album. That tune’s followed by the very satisfying “Vision Accomplished,” jointly written by Lloyd and Harmon. It’s a tune reminiscent of the group’s earlier days and, as Harmon, states “really captured the true Pieces of a Dream flavor.”

This undisturbed thread of Pieces of a Dream’s trademark excellence runs throughout the project (examples would be the mega-funky “Apb,” the lively “Step On It,” and the snappy, sassy “Things Are Looking Up”), never leaving one flat or unfulfilled. Besides Tony Watson, Jr., other contributors to this album include guitarists Rohn Lawrence and Randy Bowland, bassists David Dyson and Bennie Sims, and saxman Eddie Baccus, Jr. Plenty to love here, and boy, does the imagery of everyone actually jamming together in the studio work for this old-schooler! Another must-have from Philly’s smooth jazz dynamic duo.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at February 24, 2009 3:57 PM