Pieces of a Dream: On Another Note (Shanachie)

A review of the 24th album from the Philadelphia-based group

Pieces of a Dream, On Another Note
The cover of On Another Note by Pieces of a Dream

It’s easy to write off Pieces of a Dream as just another smooth-jazz remnant, and a predictable one at that. On Another Note is the 24th album released by the group over a career now more than four decades old, and it’s not demonstrably different in intent and execution than the earliest music made by the Philadelphia-based outfit. Long a duo consisting of drummer Curtis Harmon and keyboardist James Lloyd (founding bassist Cedric Napoleon left in 1990), Pieces of a Dream doesn’t attempt to dodge that smooth designation—they know who they are and what they do (there’s even a track called “Smooth Dreams”), and they still do just that extremely well.

On Another Note features 10 new tracks written by the pair either individually, in tandem, or with other collaborators. They’re joined on most tracks by saxophonist Tony Watson Jr. and/or guitarist Chris Harris, with Harmon and Lloyd splitting the production tasks. On several tracks Lloyd is credited with playing the bulk of the instruments and on one, “Take Me There,” it’s all him—writing, production, and all instrumentation. If that suggests a factory approach, or gives the impression that the two don’t see a lot of each other while making an album, the end result doesn’t come off that way. There’s an underlying funkiness to it all that, while not exactly deep, gives the jams a steady, good-time groove. And that works just fine for them—it’s a fair guess that most of the duo’s fans are not sitting around picking out who put what where; they just dig it as is.

Pieces of a Dream isn’t making excuses for creating music that is popular with a certain segment of the jazz-listening demographic but likely to leave most jazz critics cold—they haven’t done that since 1975, so why start now?

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Jeff Tamarkin

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Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.