PIECES OF A DREAM
“In the Moment”
Kindred spirits: Grover Washington Jr., Dave Koz, Joe Sample
Shows: Friday at Rams Head Tavern. Show starts at 7 p.m. 410-268-4545. www.ramsheadonstage.com. $42.50. Saturday at the Birchmere. Show starts
at 7:30 p.m. 703-549-7500. www.birchmere.com. $35.
It’s worth noting that “In the Moment” is the 20th album by Pieces of a Dream because, well, let’s face it, who’s counting? As milestone recordings go, it’s a modest affair, less a celebration of the group’s longevity and pop alliances than a confirmation of its smooth-jazz allure.
Keyboardist James K. Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon, the core duo, are in typical form, tweaking a trademark mix of R&B, jazz and funk, even when alluding to other pop influences. “New Jazz Swing,” for example, cleverly references ’80s New Jack Swing, and the tracks that prominently feature guitarist Rohn Lawrence and saxophonist Tony Watson Jr. help compensate for the occasional assortment of glossy synth textures and robotic beats.
A prolific and gifted composer, Lloyd contributes the album’s most memorable melodies, save for one — “There Will Never Be Another You.” In concert, the pianist often reserves time for a solo
performance or two, and here his vibrantly reharmonized interpretation of an enduring pop classic is especially welcome, bringing the album to a shining close.
No doubt many longtime Pieces of a Dream fans will be seduced by this collection of radio-ready grooves and ballads, comforted by its familiar pleasures. Surprises are few, though, and some notable guests would have helped mark the occasion.
— Mike Joyce