July  2001

Pieces of a Dream - Acquainted With The Night
Heads Up HUCD 3059
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance **1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment **1/2

[Reviewed on CD]And just what did you give to your significant other on your 25th anniversary? I’ll bet it was something special, wasn’t it? It probably had some connection with the metal of choice for 25th anniversaries, silver, didn’t it?

Well, after 25 years of helping to both create and keep alive the field of adult contemporary jazz, Pieces Of A Dream have given their S.O. (that’s you fans, by the way) an anniversary gift in the form of a brand spanking new, specially enhanced, HDCD disc, Acquainted With The Night, in conjunction with Heads Up International, a division of Telarc Records.

Certain questions naturally arise, such as, was this disc worth the wait? Is it special enough to warrant being a 25th anniversary present? You’ll have to answer for yourself, but I can't imagine the album disappointing long-time fans of the band.

Pieces Of A Dream got their start in their native Philadelphia around 1976. After doing clubs and such, they came to the attention of the late Grover Washington Jr., who helped them land their first recording contract in 1980 with Elektra Records. The rest, as they say, is history. In spite of the group's changing labels a few times (Elektra to Blue Note to Heads Up), the vision of keyboardist James Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon hasn’t changed much over the years. As Lloyd puts it, "If we did invent smooth jazz, we were just playing music we liked."

Surprisingly, there are two vocals on this album. The funk-grooved "Upside Down" and a remake of the pop hit "Do You Know" under the title "Theme From Mahogany.

However, Acquainted With The Night is primarily instrumentals, which are well played and easy to listen to, without ever crossing that thin line between easy-listening and smooth jazz. The funk groove predominates -- which shouldn’t be a surprise, given the influence of Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Chick Corea and Earth, Wing & Fire upon the band.

The sound here is processed. While the bass is deep and driving, and the kick drum has authority ("Brand Nu Start"), the dependence on keyboards for the overall sound gives the album a slick sound that just won’t go away. It also means that there is almost no ambience in a soundstage that can best be described as speaker-to-speaker. One surprise was that there was just enough depth to give a slight layering effect.After 25 years, Pieces Of A Dream seem to be primed for another long run among the pre-eminent stars of the adult jazz scene. They themselves speak of looking forward to their 50th anniversary. Acquainted With The Night gives the faithful a silver anniversary present to cherish.