Pieces of a Dream

On Another Note

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On Another Note is Pieces of a Dream's 23rd studio album. It was released by Shanachie in celebration of the band's 40-year history, during which they have not only remained a viable force (all but two of their albums have landed on the charts), but have also become an iconic entry in the annals of contemporary and smooth jazz. Composed and produced by Pieces' Curt Harmon and James K. Lloyd, it is at once a summation and continuation of their trademark sound. As is common, they enlisted a small group of regular collaborators, including saxophonist Tony Watson, Jr., guitarist Chris Harris, percussionist Elec Simon, and keyboardists Bennie Sims and George Granville.

The particular compositional and production strains found here can be directly traced back to 1997's smooth jazz exercise Pieces with a couple of notable exceptions. For one, string sounds come across much more organically in 2019, they are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing, and the duo incorporates them not so much decoratively but integrally. The lithe "Floating" juxtaposes them tastefully against Harris' nylon-string guitar playing as the saxophone hovers. The opening title track, "On Another Note," commences with ghostly, warm acoustic piano and Rhodes chords, with the drums and loops directly pointing back to the New Jack Swing era. "Kicking & Screaming" offers guitar distortion as an intro before the bassline and snare backbeat drop down hard on the jazz-funk tip and a Stevie Wonder-esque horn chart worthy of "Sir Duke." The Latin jazz groove on "A Pieces Fiesta," with its swelling synth strings, dual percussion lines from Simon and Harmon, and a shimmering Rhodes, reflect Spanish flamenco as much as they do salsa and rhumba, with Watson's sax solo bringing them all into focus under his melodic improvising, which introduces Harris' nylon-string break before a fine percussion duel closes it out. The Latin groove continues, albeit more subtly, on "Images of Peace" before the chillout-room club vibe of "Riding Along" claims the fore. "Smooth Dreams" is aptly titled, resurrecting some of the influence Grover Washington, Jr. laid on them back in the '70s when he was their producer. "Real to Me" is expendable, mainly because the repetitive chorus vocals from Watson and Harmon are so "off" they sound like they were pasted on as an afterthought. Pieces of a Dream recover nicely on the closer "Last Call," with its soulful tenor sax, Harmon's funky snare and hi-hat breaks, and Lloyd's Webster Lewis-esque piano vamps. As the success of their catalog attests, Pieces of a Dream have been remarkably consistent at a high level for over four decades. On Another Note continues that run with a canny selection of exquisitely composed feel-good jams that are timeless in their execution.

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