Pieces of a Dream, |
(Head's Up, 2002)
The late, great Grover Washington Jr. discovered Pieces of a Dream in his hometown of Philadelphia back in the late 1970s, and they became the first artist signed to his production company. Their first three albums released in the early '80s defined the style of music we now think of as smooth jazz, although back then the radio format had yet to be invented. Twenty years on, Love's Silhouette demonstrates that Pieces of a Dream have become the grand masters of smooth jazz. This disc is a total no-brainer for radio programmers, as every track on it would be perfect for smooth jazz airplay.
Love's Silhouette is fully packed with 67 minutes of eminently listenable music, mostly originals written by keyboardist and leader James Lloyd with occasional co-writers. The record kicks off with "Turning it Up" which is mostly instrumental with Lloyd's piano carrying the melody and background singers chiming in to sing the title phrase. Most of the tracks are instrumental, anchored by a powerful rhythm section of bass and drums, with the melody lines carried on piano or sax. Add some tasteful guitar lines and season with a shimmering synthesizer and you've got quintessential smooth jazz. Singer Tracey Hamlin sings lead on "I Feel Like Singin'," which starts with the whispered phrase, "music touches the soul" and features a nice nod to Earth Wind & Fire in the background vocals.
There's quite a bit of programming here, and it's so well done that you can't tell the difference between the programming and the musicians. Gerald Veasley, another native Philadelphian who has his own successful solo career, plays some skillful bass on several tracks. The album closes with "My Funny Valentine," which shows what they can do with a smoldering slow groove consisting of bass, cymbals and piano, and although singer Tracey Hamlin takes a few too many liberties with the classic melody for my taste, the track still sounds wonderful.
Smooth jazz does not get any more professional or more well done than on Love's Silhouette by Pieces of a Dream. Thanks, Grover.