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Ahead To The Past (1999)

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Pieces Of A Dream

Making sweet music together almost constantly since meeting at a Philadelphia junior high school in the mid-'70s, the principals in Pieces (keyboardist James K. Lloyd, bassist Cedric Napoleon, and drummer Curtis Harmon) were way ahead of their time. From the get-go, they mixed jazz and R&B long before there was a format for that, and their commercial success has not found them deviating from that original vision. Their most enduring radio hit is the instrumental piano ballad "For You," and that sort of elegance runs through the tunes here, even the most rousing tracks like the skittery, jazzy "Driving It Home" featuring Lloyd's amazing grace. Still, the collection could use a little more of that sort of chunky, bass-driven groove interspersed with all the midtempo lushness. Melodically, though, Pieces never misses, from the soprano sax driven opener "Took So Long" (horn played by occasional group member Eddie Baccus, Jr.) through the stunningly romantic (and also soprano based) "Love You for Life." Indicating that the album's title means they have returned to a sound reminiscent of their early-'80s work, and the retro vocal track "You and I," seems to fit that concept. Maysa Leak takes the floating lead vocal (anyone remember when they called these tunes quiet storm-like?) and Cherie Mitchell chimes in with a wonderfully bubbly Rhodes solo. The melancholy "Cry of the Lonely" is Lloyd's equivalent here to "For You," a true showcase for one of the genre's finest melodic keyboard whizzes.