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Jazz - Released May 24, 2019 | Shanachie

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Jazz Fusion & Jazz Rock - Released May 26, 2017 | Shanachie

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At the start of the 1980s, Pieces of a Dream was one of the best popular expressions of the funkier end of jazz fusion. Founded in 1976 by the bassist Cedric Napoleon, the drummer Curtis Harmon and the pianist James Lloyd, the group was given its name by Grover Washington Jr. and it surfed from smooth jazz and groovy rhythm'n'blues. With Just Funkin’ Around, time seemed to stand still, and the group, still led by Lloyd and Harmon, gives a virtuoso demonstration of its work that mixes jazz, soul and funk. Even if, for some, this kind of lighter sound might bring to mind muzak from airport bars or three-star hotels, any listener would have to concede that Pieces of a Dream moves heads and bodies with a dash of real talent. A treat for aficionados of smooth jazz. © CM/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released November 6, 2015 | Shanachie

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Jazz - Released August 27, 2013 | Shanachie

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Core and founding members James Lloyd and Curtis Harmon refer to In the Moment as the 20th Pieces of a Dream album. Instead of hosting a guest-filled blowout, they keep it simple with familiar associates, guitarist Rohn Lawrence, saxophonist Tony Watson Jr., and bassist David Dyson. The duo also receive a little assistance from a handful of additional musicians, including Shanachie label stalwart Chris "Big Dog" Davis. An all-instrumental set apart from some talkbox on "New Jazz Swing," In the Moment features a handful of cuts that should remain in the group's live repertoire for years. "Steppers 'D' Lite" and "TTYL (I'm Driving)," two of the album's most energized songs, combine live instrumentation and programmed rhythms with as much finesse as anything from their '80s releases. Dyson's bass and Lloyd's piano shine brightest on "For Real," one of several typically melodic ballads, while Lawrence is showcased throughout "Never Let It End," where he provides a pair of graceful lines. This is another modest, kicked-back release from the group. ~ Andy Kellman
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Pop - Released December 1, 2008 | Rhino - Elektra

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Blue Note Records

Sensual Embrace: The Soul Ballads collects 12 smooth jazz tracks from Pieces of a Dream's mid-'80s recordings for Blue Note Records. Among the selections are "The Cool Side," "You and I," "Goodbye Manhattan," "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?," and a cover version of Paul McCartney's "My Love." It's both a good introduction to Pieces of a Dream's laid-back sound and an excellent summation of the group's peak years. ~ Al Campbell
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Pop - Released August 16, 2004 | Rhino - Elektra

Pieces of a Dream's third album for Elektra, Imagine This features more of the softly funky jazz and R&B mix that helped to define the smooth jazz genre. Produced by saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., the album largely centers around keyboardist James K. Lloyd's Jupiter 8 synthesizer chops. In that sense, it retains a level of period '80s kitsch with Lloyd tapping into the burgeoning rap music sound with synthesizer-generated record "scratching" and syncopated drum beats. To these ends, "For the Fun of It" is a Furious Five-ready single minus the rapping while "It's Getting Hot in Here" sounds like "Freedom Jazz Dance" played on a Casio keyboard. Other tracks including the "quiet storm" ballads "It's Time for Love" and danceable "Fo-Fi Fo" feature stellar vocals from bassist Cedric A. Napoleon. ~ Matt Collar
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1999 | Blue Note Records

Making sweet music together almost constantly since meeting at a Philadelphia junior high school in the mid-'70s, the principals in Pieces (keyboardist James K. Lloyd, bassist Cedric Napoleon, and drummer Curtis Harmon) were way ahead of their time. From the get-go, they mixed jazz and R&B long before there was a format for that, and their commercial success has not found them deviating from that original vision. Their most enduring radio hit is the instrumental piano ballad "For You," and that sort of elegance runs through the tunes here, even the most rousing tracks like the skittery, jazzy "Driving It Home" featuring Lloyd's amazing grace. Still, the collection could use a little more of that sort of chunky, bass-driven groove interspersed with all the midtempo lushness. Melodically, though, Pieces never misses, from the soprano sax driven opener "Took So Long" (horn played by occasional group member Eddie Baccus, Jr.) through the stunningly romantic (and also soprano based) "Love You for Life." Indicating that the album's title means they have returned to a sound reminiscent of their early-'80s work, and the retro vocal track "You and I," seems to fit that concept. Maysa Leak takes the floating lead vocal (anyone remember when they called these tunes quiet storm-like?) and Cherie Mitchell chimes in with a wonderfully bubbly Rhodes solo. The melancholy "Cry of the Lonely" is Lloyd's equivalent here to "For You," a true showcase for one of the genre's finest melodic keyboard whizzes. ~ Jonathan Widran
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Jazz - Released February 24, 2009 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)

"Their secret, in swinging tunes like 'Sway On' and 'Vision Accomplished' and funky numbers like 'Step on It' and 'Soul Intent,' is to stay true to their vision of muscular contemporary jazz unburdened by thoughts of radio airplay."
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2004 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1992 | Blue Note Records

The Best of Pieces of a Dream is an excellent 14-track collection that contains highlights from the fusion group's '80s recordings for Manhattan Records. Among the selections are "Keep It Smooth," "Baby It's Your Turn Now," "Cool Side," "Mt. Airy Groove," "Rising to the Top," "Warm Weather," and "Shadow of Your Smile." It's both a good introduction to the group's sound and an excellent summation of their peak years. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2004 | Concord Records, Inc.

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2002 | Concord Records, Inc.

Love's Silhouette contains 14 tracks that swing and sing in the easy-flowing and genre-crossing style that has made Pieces of a Dream a staple in contemporary jazz. The group, who celebrated 25 years in the music business in 2001, continues to push stylistic boundaries and add more hard grooves, a few Latin flavors, and more funk than on their previous chart-topping hit, Acquainted With the Night. This sonic diversity is mostly heard on the urbane, mid-tempo "Turning It Up" and "Mission Possible," while the reverent, bluesy, gospel-tinged "Remembrance (9/11/01)" is a plaintive, poetic elegy to that tragic day. The addition of saxophonist Eddie Baccus Jr. on several tracks was a good move and his sound helps the listener's interests to grow at a much faster pace than it took for these compositions to come to light. The title track was written several years ago but only made the cut after highly prolific composer/keyboardist James Lloyd played it for his family, who urged him to redo it. The beautiful song emerged from its own uncomplicated, loving silhouette, so to speak. Other major highlights include "I Feel Like Singin'" and the reharmonized update of "My Funny Valentine," which features the dynamic vocals of Tracy Hamlin and the bass genius of labelmate Gerald Veasley. The latter song closes the set and leaves the listener bathed in a glow of exotic retrospection and with a premonition of discovering something even more wonderful on subsequent listens. ~ Paula Edelstein
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Pop - Released December 1, 2008 | Rhino - Elektra

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Jazz - Released April 26, 2019 | Shanachie

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On Another Note is Pieces of a Dream's 23rd studio album. It was released by Shanachie in celebration of the band's 40-year history, during which they have not only remained a viable force (all but two of their albums have landed on the charts), but have also become an iconic entry in the annals of contemporary and smooth jazz. Composed and produced by Pieces' Curt Harmon and James K. Lloyd, it is at once a summation and continuation of their trademark sound. As is common, they enlisted a small group of regular collaborators, including saxophonist Tony Watson, Jr., guitarist Chris Harris, percussionist Elec Simon, and keyboardists Bennie Sims and George Granville. The particular compositional and production strains found here can be directly traced back to 1997's smooth jazz exercise Pieces with a couple of notable exceptions. For one, string sounds come across much more organically in 2019, they are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing, and the duo incorporates them not so much decoratively but integrally. The lithe "Floating" juxtaposes them tastefully against Harris' nylon-string guitar playing as the saxophone hovers. The opening title track, "On Another Note," commences with ghostly, warm acoustic piano and Rhodes chords, with the drums and loops directly pointing back to the New Jack Swing era. "Kicking & Screaming" offers guitar distortion as an intro before the bassline and snare backbeat drop down hard on the jazz-funk tip and a Stevie Wonder-esque horn chart worthy of "Sir Duke." The Latin jazz groove on "A Pieces Fiesta," with its swelling synth strings, dual percussion lines from Simon and Harmon, and a shimmering Rhodes, reflect Spanish flamenco as much as they do salsa and rhumba, with Watson's sax solo bringing them all into focus under his melodic improvising, which introduces Harris' nylon-string break before a fine percussion duel closes it out. The Latin groove continues, albeit more subtly, on "Images of Peace" before the chillout-room club vibe of "Riding Along" claims the fore. "Smooth Dreams" is aptly titled, resurrecting some of the influence Grover Washington, Jr. laid on them back in the '70s when he was their producer. "Real to Me" is expendable, mainly because the repetitive chorus vocals from Watson and Harmon are so "off" they sound like they were pasted on as an afterthought. Pieces of a Dream recover nicely on the closer "Last Call," with its soulful tenor sax, Harmon's funky snare and hi-hat breaks, and Lloyd's Webster Lewis-esque piano vamps. As the success of their catalog attests, Pieces of a Dream have been remarkably consistent at a high level for over four decades. On Another Note continues that run with a canny selection of exquisitely composed feel-good jams that are timeless in their execution. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2000 | Blue Note Records