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Pieces of a Dream

With many contemporary and smooth jazz artists using digital technology to record their music, it's nice sometimes to go back and record with all the musicians are in the studio. Such as the case with the group Pieces of a Dream's latest effort Soul Intent. Founding duo James Lloyd and Curtis Harmon believe that some of the best and most enduring ideas come when all parties are in the same room doing their thing. So, for the first time since 1981, the two return to their original approach to songwriting and recording on Soul Intent.

Drummer Harmon says there were two things that they wanted to do on the new CD. He says, the sound we used to have while making it seem more updated and keeping the maturity in the music also. The other was performing live on the album with each other. Like everybody didn't do things separately, we all recorded it together like as a whole band playing. We were able to feed off of each other that way instead of one guy just playing by himself to the track. It just made for a much better sound.

The writing of the music for Soul Intent also was done in the way they did it almost three decades ago. Curtis Harmon says, James and I kind of pulled together on this one and tried to do the writing together. We were looking for a unique Pieces of a Dream sound using the talents of both of us and not one separate and the the other. We haven't done a lot of writing together in the past, I've done my writing and he's done his. On this one we just kind of said, 'We're both the original members of Pieces of a Dream so if we both write something together, it's very much an original sound of Pieces of a Dream.'

The songs on Soul Intent show the influences that Harmon and James Lloyd have learned throughout their careers. Harmon says, 'Vision Accomplished' is a song really captured the true Pieces of a Dream flavor because it was written by the two original members of the band. It gets back to the heart and the core of how we like to write, what we like to play and what we want our sound to be. 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. 'Stand Up' has a faster, more funky vibe and this song is going to rock in concert. It turned out a lot better on the album than I originally thought it would. At first, I wasn't getting the vibe and the energy that I was looking for. When I added some guitar, percussion and saxophone, the song started to breathe and really come to life.

Curtis Harmon believes the songs on Soul Intent are very true. He says, the songs were recorded as the writers had originally intended them to be. They weren't reworked and rearranged from their original intent and turned into something else. They weren't tampered with. As a whole, this CD portrays the intent of the writers a lot better than some of our past albums. As a result, the initial inspiration behind the songs comes across better.

In writing music, Harmon says it's a continuing learning process. He says, with each project you learn a little more than the last. What we try to do is to incorporate the last thing we learned along with the other stuff we learned throughout the years and throughout the different projects that we've done and put it all together and come together with what James has learned and what I learned separately. Just try to make the best project that we can. One of our trademarks is to try to make our performances on the CD as exciting as possible also, not just in concerts. Our shows are very high energy so we want the songs to kind of portray that even on the album also. Once we put the show together, we come out with something that the audience is going to love.

With its high energy shows, Pieces of a Dream shows the difference between what the public wants to hear and what smooth jazz radio is playing. Pieces drummer Curtis Harmon says, people are going to continue to turn to R&B radio. A lot of people like to hear things that sound like pop, that sound like R&B and things that actually have more of an up to date groove. Not such a solemn and kind of watered down sound. We're trying to cater to the masses here so we have to cater to what most of the people want to listen to and not to just a few select are trying to do here.

Harmon is also worried about the number of smooth jazz stations that have gone off the air in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Houston and Washington, DC. He believes that these stations are listening to consultants instead of what the people want to listen to. Harmon thinks that listeners want to hear more than what the stations want to play and want to be challenged by new performers. He says, not only are they not getting new listeners, but they are not keeping the ones that they have. Just because people are getting older doesn't mean that they don't want a fresh sound and excitement in their music.

In the past few years, CD sales have been hurting all areas of the record industry. Curtis Harmon knows how hard for Pieces of a Dream to be able to sell product if radio stations don't let people hear the material. He says a lot of people are getting their music in different ways, including YouTube, and a lot of them are downloading, too, which is kind of killing us. I'm actually looking at doing that because I'm trying to bring a new group out and it's hard. It's very hard.

Pieces of a Dream's Soul Intent is a back to the future kind of release where old school techniques mix with new school writing. It makes the CD one that shows how performing music live is still the way to get the true feel of the music. I wish that more artists every so often would record like this to show the audience just how important it is when musicians work together. It's as close to a concert performance as you will get without having to go through some of the troubles, especially in today's economy.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Pieces Of A Dream
  • Interview Date: 5/1/2004
  • Subtitle: No Assembly Required
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