They move and play with abundant groove, and their iconic sound throws sunshine out every which way. Pieces of a Dream (James Lloyd, piano at left; Curtis Harmon, drums at right) has been around for over four decades, yet they’ve come up with new ways to re-invent that sultry, smooth head.
Their new CD “Just Funkin’ Around” has instant hits like “Right Back Atcha” that is undeniably and wholly dance-worthy. “On the Move” swells with sax-driven heat and a captivating beat from the drums as keys get blue while getting down. The pulse of the city is in “Manhattan” where the guys get into a righteous spirit.
“Just Funkin’ Around” delivers the whole smooth smorgasbord. Expectations exceeded.
How did you meet to form “Pieces of a Dream”?
Curtis: We met at the Ada H. Lewis Middle School in Philly as members of the school jazz band and formed a smaller group for the talent show given at the school.
How would you compare that Philly funk sound back then to now?
I think music is evolutionary like a lot of other professions. I think that the old Philly sound was more of a “soul sound” whereas now, it’s become more of a funk-based groove. For instance, The Stylistics and Teddy Pendergrass had more of that soul sound; but now you have groups like The Roots and singers like Jill Scott who still have soul but are more funk-oriented.
The group is a household name. Does your fame and popularity surprise you?
I wouldn’t call us famous. I would just say that we’re well-known. There are a lot of people who don’t know that we even exist. However, it’s a great feeling to know that people really appreciate our music.
What’s the most important lesson you all have learned from working together for over 40 years?
Respect!!! You cannot have a successful and creative partnership without it.
How do you keep your sound fresh even when performing your earlier music?
We find new and exciting ways to perform it and present it to our audience by maybe changing the arrangement or adding solos; or maybe different breaks and kicks to give it that little extra oomph people look for in a live performance.
Who does the bulk of the composition?
We all have input. But I would say James and I do the bulk of the writing.
What themes inspire you?
Anything can be an inspiration, from a new relationship or seeing something that you feel a certain way about, to just being on vacation.
What is the most gratifying thing to you as musicians?
Giving people a good show and creating great music. People work hard all week for what they earn and when they choose to spend it seeing our show, we want to make sure that it’s well worth it. Also, when we write and create new songs that people like enough to come see us perform and purchase, it’s a personal accomplishment. This is our profession and we strive to be great at what we do.
What was the most memorable part of your tour with the late Grover Washington, Jr.?
Touring 8 cities in Japan. We got to see a different culture for the first time and it was AMAZING!!!
Talk about your latest CD, “Just Funkin’ Around” – production and recording highlights?
It was a collaborative effort by the whole group. We did some recording separately and some together. The other group members had some great songs to add to this project along with what James and I did, and this project was a group effort from the writing to the production.
We also have a great mixing engineer, Martin Walters, who is always at the top of his game.
Some favorite tracks?
“Just Funkin Around,” “On The Move,” “Let’s Do This,” “Manhattan,” “Right Back Atcha.” Honestly, we like them ALL!!
How has your sound evolved over four decades?
I think that our writing has matured. We don’t write like we’re new at this. We all have our own studios and with all of the new sounds and devices at our disposal, we’re able to keep our sound fresh and up-to-date.
How do you handle improv and solos, and give one another the floor?
We have very talented musicians in our group. Everyone gets a chance to show what they’re working with at least once or twice every show.
What question do you get asked most by audiences?
How long have you been together?
What’s your biggest challenge?
I would say running this as a business. We’ve have always just been the talent while my dad and uncle ran the business end. Since their retirement we’ve taken on a lot more of the day-to-day operation and things are running very smoothly.
Where will you be touring this year?
We’re doing Cincinnati, OH, Norfolk, VA, The Playboy Jazz Fest in Hollywood, CA, Rehoboth Beach, DE and a bunch of other cities.
Your favorite venue worldwide?
There are a lot of places that we like to play, from clubs to Amphitheaters. But, I would have to say for me, it’s Chene Park in Detroit.
Where would you most want to perform?
Italy, Dubai, France and some other places. But, I’m partial to the Caribbean.
Do you still have strong roots in Philly?
Yes. The Black Writers Museum in Philly presented James and me with The Living Legends of Jazz award last summer. And we love going home to perform every once in a while.
What advice do you give to new musicians?
Practice, practice, practice your craft. It’s not easy to make a career of music. It may seem like there are lots of us who’ve made it, but there are a lot more of us who haven’t and are still trying and the better you are at what you do, the better your chances are at doing what you love. Be diligent and don’t give up. No one said it would be easy, but anything’s possible.
We would like to thank all of our fans, radio personalities and DJs for 42 years of support and we hope to always stay true to the music that has brought so many of you along for the ride. It means the world to us to have such dedicated fans. THANK YOU ALL!!!!
For more information, visit http://www.piecesofadream.net.