PIECES OF A DREAM: Soul Intent (Label: Heads Up)

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Pieces Of A Dream (now essentially keyboardist James K Lloyd and percussionist Curtis Harmon) are a smooth jazz institution. They emerged from Philadelphia in the late seventies and were originally mentored by Grover Washington. From the late, great sax man they obviously learned the importance of the good soul groove. Their numerous albums are stuffed with tunes built around the solid beauty of beats, rhythms and an ambience rooted in the soul idiom… and after three decades the duo are still mining that same feel-good vein. ‘Soul Intent’ – like all its predecessors – is chock-a-block with quality smooth jazz and though it won’t set the music world alight (it was never intended to) it will please the band’s legions of fans no end. The set has a good share of tight, foot tappers – ‘Sway On’, ‘Things Are Looking Up’ and the title cut spring to mind, while the quiet stormers will relish cuts like the dreamy ‘Hindsight’ and the unashamedly romantic ‘Anywhere You Are’. Babyface’s ‘Give U My Heart’ is another clear winner – and like all the cuts, it allows Lloyd’s keyboards to sparkle. In homage to their original mentor, many of the tunes are embellished with outstanding sax work from Tony Watson Jr., Eddie Baccus Jr. and Joe Cunningham. ‘Soul Intent’ is indeed a good smooth jazz set, but a vocal cut could have taken it to another level. Maybe in these credit crunching times contracting a singer was beyond the band’s budgets – but it would have made a good album better.
(BB) 3/5