Pieces of a Dream

Since the mid-'70s, Philadelphia's Pieces of a Dream has been the city's preeminent contemporary jazz and R&B outfit; all but two of its many recordings have landed on American and international charts. The first act signed to saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.'s production company, he produced their self-titled charting Elektra debut in 1981 and subsequent releases, like the Grammy- nominated We Are One (1982) and Imagine This (1984); both albums solidified their breezy, warm, accessible meld of jazz and adult contemporary R&B and smooth funk. Throughout the '80s, the group appeared live with Washington, Jr. as well as with other R&B and jazz stars including George Benson, Earth Wind & Fire, Patrice Rushen, Chaka Khan, Jeff Lorber Fusion, and Angela Bofill. For 1986s Joyride (half produced by Lenny White and the remainder by Maurice White), that peaked at number three on the jazz charts, they moved to EMI/Manhattan (which later morphed into Blue Note Contemporary). The trio cut a total of seven albums for EMI before bassist Cedric Napoleon amicably departed the lineup. They delivered the funky Acquainted with the Night in 2001, the first of their recordings for Heads Up International with bassist David Dyson and other guests, including saxophonist Gerald Albright and acid jazz guitarist Ronny Jordan. They delivered six more recordings for the label, the last of which, 2009's Pillow Talk, hit number eight on the jazz charts. Since that time, the duo has recorded four charting albums for Shanachie including 2017's Just Funkin' Around that landed on the jazz list at number six. Bassist Cedric Napoleon, drummer Curtis Harmon, and keyboardist James Lloyd founded crossover jazz group Pieces of a Dream in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were teenagers at the time of their 1976 formation. Though jazz-based, the group also emphasized R&B and incorporated funk, quiet storm, hip-hop, new jack swing, and smooth jazz into their recordings, which often featured vocalists (including Barbara Walker, Eva Cassidy, and Maysa Leak). Grover Washington, Jr. produced their first three albums -- Pieces of a Dream, We Are One, and Imagine This -- all of which were released on Elektra from 1981 through 1983. Three additional '80s releases, including a pair co-produced by Lenny White, appeared on EMI-Manhattan. Saxophonist Ron Kerber became a member in the '90s -- an addition that preceded varied releases throughout that decade for Blue Note. In the early 2000s, Pieces of a Dream moved to Cleveland's Heads Up label, where they remained for a decade. Their studio effort, In the Moment, appeared on Shanachie in 2013. Two years later, Pieces of a Dream celebrated their 40th Anniversary with the release of All In. In 2017, they delivered their 22nd studio album, Just Funkin' Around. Two years later, Harmon and Lloyd stayed true to their smooth jazz bona fides for On Another Note with assistance form guests Tony Watson, Jr. (sax), Chris Harris (guitar), Elec Simon (drums), and keyboardists Bennie Sims and George Granville. ~ Scott Yanow

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