Over 20 years ago, those CD-alarm clock-radios came onto the market
and immediately into my home. I still think it is the bee’s
knees to wake up to my favorite music, you know, comfortably easing
back into reality. For years and years, various Pieces of a
Dream CDs have been my wake-up music. When a new one comes
out, I change it up. Always, their music is so pleasing it
lures me back into consciousness. It’s a wonderful way to start
the day, getting my groove on even before getting out of bed!
Lucky for me, there’s a new Pieces of a Dream CD just released. I’m
excited to be changing things up with Soul Intent. Mornings
will be an adventure for months to come. In stores, February
24th, the new CD brings 10 new tunes and one cover in a finely crafted,
live recording, full of good vibes, style, soul, and creativity.
As President Barack Obama pointed out on Inauguration night and
Pieces of a Dream founding duo, keyboardist James Lloyd and drummer
Curtis Harmon, have known for a long time…old school is still
the place where some of the best and most enduring musical ideas
are born. It's that kind of innovation and eclecticism that
keeps Pieces of a Dream fresh and authentic. "We will
always be true to ourselves and our roots," says Lloyd, "and
at the same time try to stay in touch with the times."
By the way, the group based their name on "Pieces of Dreams," a
cover tune, from the 1974 album of the same name by the great Stanley
Turrentine, which the group had performed often.
From Soul Intent’s original songwriting
to its live-in the-studio recording approach, the star-quality talents
of those two Philly kids discovered by Grover Washington, Jr. in
the mid-’70s, still flourishes today. "One of my
main goals was to go back to the original approach to making a Pieces
record," says Lloyd. "The idea was to bring everyone
into the studio at the same time so we could all work together in
real time. A lot of people really get into that vintage sound
from our first three albums, that period from '81 to '83. I
figured if we went back to those old-style methods of recording and
writing, then that element of vintage Pieces might show up in the
music itself. It was an opportunity to bounce ideas off each
other in a way that we could never have done had we recorded it separately. Five
heads are definitely better than one."
Lloyd and Harmon kept good company in the studio, playing with Tony
Watson, Jr. (saxophone,) Randy Bowland (guitar,) Bennie Sims (keyboards,
programming, bass,) Eddie Baccus, Jr. (saxophone,) Rohn Lawrence
(guitar,) David Dyson (bass,) Joe Cunningham (saxophone,) and Martin
Opening the set is the upbeat “Sway On.” From the
first few notes, you know you’re in the presence of a bone
fide Pieces of a Dream experience. Written and produced by
Lloyd, his relaxed yet elegant keys are set against a solid groove.
The lighthearted interplay between Lloyd and the effortless sax riffs
of Tony Watson, Jr. is deliciously enticing.
Celebrating the group’s earliest and deepest roots, here comes
their trademark sax and piano combo. In “Vision Accomplished,” we
are treated to a soulful and nostalgic piece, a writing collaboration
by Lloyd and Harmon. While Watson’s sax delivers the
sweet melody, Lloyd easily improvises on keys, backed by Bowland’s
hip, percussive guitar work.
Next track is a cover of Babyface’s R&B hit “Give
U My Heart.” Lloyd masterfully carries the melody then
trades off with Watson’s very expressive sax. Amid the
stomping beat and deep bass groove, these guys really swing.
“APB” combines jazz and rock to create a minor chord, driving,
melodic theme. “APB”is written and produced by Harmon (on drums
and percussion,) Bennie Sims (on keyboards and bass,) and Holmer Lewis. Also
with Eddie Baccus, Jr. on sax and Rohn Lawrence on searing rock guitar, each
expertly contributes improvisations and variant themes.
Mellowing out significantly, the luxurious “Hindsight” was
created in performance by the whole group, just as it happened live
in the studio. Baccus (sax) and Lawrence (guitar) each play luscious
solos and accompaniment to Lloyd’s fluid, intense piano.
The spirited title track, “Soul Intent,” features James
Lloyd 's inspired piano performance with Watson’s flavorful
sax solos underlayered with a very cool, funky groove.
“Step On It” is a propulsive, strutting, ensemble piece, tastefully
integrating unique textures (like a Japanese Koto) with Watson’s impassioned
sax and Lloyd's agile keyboard work.
With songwriting happening during in the live studio performance,
this track shows off more of a jazz improv style, kind of like an
old CTI recording. “Things Are Looking Up” offers
lots of free flowing elements, including Lloyd’s funky organ
sounds. WOW! A rare drum solo by Curtis Harmon!!! Fantastic! Baccus
on sax seems to be channeling Grover.
Another track written by the group live in the studio is “D
Fuse The Situation.” It is simply too cool. Things are
really starting to cook now, especially with Lloyd’s, Baccus’s
and Lawrence’s solos! Lloyd comments, “The song 'D Fuse
the Situation' is a tribute to keyboardist Herbie Hancock, who is
my longtime idol. I can't really think of myself as being in the
same league as Herbie, but when I listen to that song, I feel like
there are some moments where his inspiration is coming through. It's
a very old-school track where we just let loose and play.”
With only a second to catch our breath, we roll right into “Stand
Up.” It features saxman Cunningham and guitarist Lawrence
who really step out on leads and solos. Again, with a strong improv
element, this track is “alive,” vibrant and interesting,
with some of the best performances on the album.
The soulful ballad, “Anywhere You Are,” is really quite
powerful. The impassioned sax of Baccus really sells the song.
He’s on fire! On this track, Harmon plays keyboards as
well as percussion. It’s a very strong end the album,
leaving me wanting more.
All in all, I enjoyed the album. It did take a few listens
to grow on me, but with careful attention, I saw the utter beauty
and love poured into this accomplishment. I know what I’ll
be waking up to for a long time to come!
For more information on the group’s 30 year musical endeavors,
visit Pieces of a Dream's website: http://piecesjazz.com/