Thirty years ago, it was nothing more than a creative lark for two young kids from Philadelphia. Keyboardist James Lloyd was 11 and drummer Curtis Harmon was 13. All they wanted to do was make good music. They took the name Pieces of a Dream from the title of a 1974 Stanley Turrentine album, and the rest, as they say…
Some of the names and faces have changed over the years, but Lloyd and Harmon are still at the core of this powerhouse contemporary jazz combo, and their commitment to music that is not just good but great has never wavered in the three intervening decades. Pieces of a Dream celebrates this landmark anniversary with the worldwide release of Pillow Talk on Heads Up International. The new album finds Lloyd, Harmon and company just as passionate about their craft in this new century as those two Philly youngsters back in the day.
"This is another great chapter in a great story," says Lloyd. "It’s a privilege to still be doing it after so many years. Making your way in the music business can be a perilous undertaking, especially these days, but the fact that Pieces has been together as long as it has says something about who we are – as musicians and as people – and the kind of music that we make."
Pillow Talk is a perfect example of how Pieces of a Dream has successfully navigated the years. Filled with catchy riffs, infectious grooves and compelling vocals, it’s the kind of record that speaks to the moment yet embraces three decades of creative excellence.
"House Arrest," the punchy opening track, is one of the clearest statements in the entire set. Co-authored by Harmon and Bennie Simms, the track is Harmon’s way of keep the longstanding Pieces groove alive for a new generation of listeners. "That’s an instrumental song with more of a house beat," says Harmon. "Part of what we wanted to accomplish with the songs that I contributed was to bring a fresh new sound to Pieces. I wanted to make some danceable instrumental music."
Further in, guest vocalist Ramona Dunlap steps up to the microphone with the defiant and no-nonsense "Triflin’," and later on the impassioned devotional "Those Three Words" and the sultry "Your Love." Dunlap’s rich vocal presence has been a part of the Pieces stage show in the past, and she was first introduced to worldwide audiences on the group’s Acquainted with the Night album. "Ramona is very professional, very much to the point with her craft" says Harmon. "It took no more than one or two takes to get what we needed from her. She was very clear about what she was doing."
Also worth noting is the lively "Wake Up Call," with piano work from Lloyd that is both punchy and melodic at the same time. "Attitude" sets Lloyd’s complex piano lines and Tony Watson Jr.’s full-bodied sax riffs against a hip-hop backbeat. The album closes with the shimmering title track, a laid back number with a persistent backbeat – a seemingly incongruous yet ultimately satisfying combination that showcases Lloyd’s prowess on piano, keyboard and programming.
Pillow Talk is another satisfying set from a band that has built a reputation on finely crafted recordings. After three decades, what’s the glue that holds it all together? "I think the high level of musicianship is what has made Pieces what it is over the years," says Harmon. "James is a very talented and gifted musician, and our styles and sensibilities blend well. After thirty years of working together and playing together, there’s a collaborative aspect to what we do that’s hard to explain. It just happens."
"We’re more than just bandmates," says Lloyd. "We’re family. We’ve been through good times and bad, and that just makes the music deeper and better. This album is just another example of what happens when two brothers who’ve grown up on the same creative track get together and bring out the best in each other."