HIT-MAKERS PIECES OF A DREAM CONTINUE INSPIRED JOURNEY WITH NEW RECORDING ON ANOTHER NOTE TO BE RELEASED ON SHANACHIE MAY 24, 2019

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Dubbed the “Steely Dan of smooth jazz” by All About Jazz and praised by JazzTimes Magazine for their “consistently winning contemporary jazz,” Pieces Of A Dream has been churning out chart-topping hits for four consecutive decades. Even the iconic Count Basie declared Pieces Of A Dream “A tough act to follow!” Hailing from The City of Brotherly Love, the celebrated band has joined the ranks of some of Philadelphia’s most revered music-makers including Grover Washington, Jr., Patti LaBelle, The Roots, Jill Scott, John Coltrane and Stanley Clarke. Throughout their illustrious career, childhood friends, pianist James Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon, have managed to stay true to their mission. “I don’t feel the vision for Pieces has changed at all,” explains Lloyd. “It’s a very simple one, to spread peace through our gift of music.” Curtis Harmon adds, “The band has changed a lot from 1976 to now. I mean just think about it – when we started we were only 3, now we’re 7!” Pieces Of A Dream, whose name is inspired by Pittsburgh tenor titan Stanley Turrentine’s song “Pieces Of Dreams,” remains one of the architects of contemporary jazz and has no plans of slowing down. “Our fans keep us alive and kicking,” declares Harmon. May 24, 2019 Shanachie Entertainment will release On Another Note, Pieces Of A Dream’s 24th recording. “We’re back folks with one more to add to your collection,” says James Lloyd. “I hope the new music shows the passion we put into the performances on this project and our constant drive to improve on everything we deliver to our fans.”
Pieces Of A Dream has toured the world, sold over one million albums, and scored both Smooth Jazz and R&B radio hits along the way. Curtis Harmon reflects, “So far our fans and the DJs seem cool with what we have been doing so I say if the recipe works, keep cookin’ with it!” Crowned “Pioneers of Smooth Jazz” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pieces Of A Dream’s longevity is a testament to the brotherhood shared between James Lloyd and Curtis Harmon. On Another Note was truly a labor of love. Lloyd shares, “These songs very much reflect both of our hearts and vibes. I believe we are all products of our environment and if one creates music from the heart it contains all of their emotions.”
On Another Note finds Pieces Of A Dream doing what they do best – serving up their irresistible signature fusion of Jazz, R&B, Funk, Pop, Blues and beyond. There is something for everyone and for every mood. “This CD should play like the set list of life,” says Lloyd. “It is for moments of joy, melancholy, high activity, retrospection, party-mode, pain, hopefulness, and sometimes just plain fun.” The CDs first single and title track is a sweet and soulful groove showcasing the tenor of Tony Watson Jr. The sultry and R&B laced “Floating” follows and features the fluid and enchanting guitar of Chris Harris. Lloyd and Harmon provide the right vibe with their high-octane groove “Kickin’ & Screamin’.” The spirited anthem joins the duo with both Chris Harris and co-writer Tony Watson Jr. Together the ensemble kicks it up a notch for a funk showdown. “This song is my favorite track,” shares Harmon. I just think that this song is a true funk instrumental that’s going to be a whole lot of fun for our audience to hear and for us to perform. Tony and I had a lot of fun writing it.”
Pieces Of A Dream shifts gears with the gorgeous ballad “Take Me There,” which provides the right showcase for James Lloyd to demonstrate just how he makes the keys sing. The spirited and jubilant “A Pieces Fiesta,” is a Latin-tinged affair and cause for celebration showcasing the multi-dimensional range of Pieces Of A Dream. The explosive track features the percussive wonder of Curtis Harmon along with Elec Simon. The tranquil and graceful “Images of Peace,” which James Lloyd cites as his track favorite, offers a sublime meditative oasis from the rushed pace of our daily lives, while “Rolling Along” is a bluesy anthem with a kick and groove that is sure to elevate your mood.
On Another Note also features the sweet bounce of “Smooth Dreams” and the uplifting “Real To Me.” The album comes to a rousing finale with the swinger and stepper-esque groove of “Last Call.” But don’t worry it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. James Lloyd says, “Here’s the game plan folks; create and release music to try to touch people, perform live and try to touch people there and along the way, teach others what we’ve learned along our way and repeat it until we expire.” So let the music play!
Not many groups manage to stay together for 42 years and amass a catalogue of 24 recordings. The story of Pieces Of A Dream is remarkable considering James Lloyd and Curtis Harmon were 16 and 18 respectively when they released their first recording in 1981. Not long after that they hit the road performing in Grover Washington Jr.’s rhythm section and opening for him as Pieces Of A Dream. “Mr. Magic” himself took Lloyd and Harmon under his wings and signed the band as the first group with his brand new production company. Danny Harmon, Curtis’ father and a jazz musician himself, became their manager and had the guys listening to the Modern Jazz Quartet, Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson as they developed their unique sound, blending their jazz roots with R&B, soul and funk. Pieces released three albums in quick succession, firmly establishing its place in the world of smooth jazz with the CDs Pieces of a Dream (1981), We Are One (1982) and Imagine This (1983). Those albums include some of their biggest early hits, including “Warm Weather,” “Mount Airy Groove” and “Fo Fi Fo.” Pieces Of A Dream recorded their Shanachie debut, In The Moment, in 2013, followed by 2015’s All In and Just Funkin’ Around in 2017.
“Hopefully On Another Note will take our fans on a joyride like no other ‘Pieces’ album or CD ever has. The range of influences on this one are broad, from Funk to Latin ballads. You can’t help but feel a wide range of emotion. We just want everyone to enjoy the entire journey,” concludes Curtis Harmon. James Lloyd adds, “We’re looking forward to Pieces Of A Dream’s Golden Anniversary. We’ve already been blessed with so much but that is an incredible milestone that few are able to reach…fingers crossed!”

The 8th Annual John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival

The John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival held on September 1st -2nd began with the Coltrane Youth Jazz Workshop. Every year they are always the festival openers. Following them were the 2018 Coltrane Jazz All Stars spearheaded by the director of Jazz Ensemble at North Carolina A&T State University Mondre Moffett. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band from New Orleans had the crowd on their feet with their funky big band grooves. Grammy nominated Jazzmeia Horn blew onlookers away with her incredible jazz vocals. The rain made its way in and even caused a brief break in the performances, but in the end it didn’t stop the music. Renowned guitarist Lee Ritenhour was everything fans expected. Gregory Porter graced the stage with his fabulous band and flawless vocals to end the evening. It was the perfect finale to a day of incredible music. The last day of the festival included vocalist and guitar player Jackie Venson, Michelle and Ravi Coltrane, Diane Reeves, and Pete Escovedo with Sheila E.

Photo cred for last 4 images: Garland Hancock

STANLEY CLARKE: IN HIS OWN WORDS

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1. You’ve been referred to as a legend since you were in you mid-20s. When you hear the title “legend,” who comes to mind?

“Legend” is a funny term to me. I don’t pay it any mind. Famous, happy, great, ego, confidence are all feelings. “Legendary” doesn’t really seem to have feelings wrapped around it.

I have heroes like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stan Getz and Charlie Parker. These are people I listened to when I was young.

2.  You are undoubtedly one of the most accomplished bassists, prolific in jazz-fusion and jazz, and an inspiration for other musicians to emulate. As a young prodigy, who were your major musical influences?

My mother was a semi-professional opera singer and played a lot of classical music. My father really liked gospel. I was very fortunate in that music was always in my home growing up. My parents introduced me to all different styles of music and I have continued to listen to all types of music, new and old. I was not a person to get heavily into a particular genre.

When I started listening to the radio as a teenager, I loved Jimi Hendrix and the R&B music coming out of Motown. Someone gave me a John Coltrane album in my teens that I fell in love with. That motivated me to listen to artists like Miles Davis, Stan Getz and Charlie Parker. All are incredibly creative and innovative in their own way.

I began studying music around 12 or 13 years old. I first learned on the acoustic bass. I was blessed that the foundation of my career was a great musical education. My initial music education was very traditional and somewhat strict, but it gave me a strong base that I could build upon.

3.  How was the transition fresh out of school from the Philadelphia Academy of Music to New York and into the company of musical bandleaders such as Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon?

I was very lucky in that when I came to New York to launch my career, I immediately landed jobs with famous bandleaders such as Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Pharaoh Saunders, Gil Evans and Stan Getz among others. They were great role models, each in different ways. It was the best on-the-job training. One of the wonderful things about Jazz is the nurturing that takes place of young musicians by the masters. I now try and do this myself.

In Charlotte I’m going to be bringing along Beka Gochiashvili on acoustic piano, Mike Mitchell on drums, and Cameron Graves on keyboards. We’ve been playing together for the last few years. Beka is now about 19-years-old and Mike 20-years-old. They are already award-winning, extraordinary musicians. They are about the same age I was when I first started playing with some of the masters. Cameron has been around a bit longer and is a very talented musician.

4.  Shortly thereafter, as a masterful jazz-fusion bassist, you had gold albums and were selling out shows as the headliner. Were you prepared for the success you were achieving by the age of 25?

My ultimate goal has always been to bring the bass out from the rhythm section to the front of the stage. I worked very hard to give the bass a distinctive voice and I could see the progress with each success. Playing in huge arenas was pretty heavy stuff and certainly different from my earlier jazz combo experiences, but, wow, what a great adventure. Specifically to answer your question, I don’t think anyone can really prepare for that kind of success and fame on a major scale.

Things were pretty different for a young musician 40 or 50 years ago. Probably the biggest thing is that we didn’t have the media scrutinization created by the Internet. I’m thankful I didn’t have to deal with that.

5.  Throughout your illustrious career, Mr. Clarke, you’ve received countless accolades including 4 Grammy’s and are well established as a composer, producer, and film score composer, arranger, and conductor.

You had the honor of collaborating with some of the greatest artists in the world. The list–just to name a few–includes Jean Luc Ponty, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, Lenny White, and Larry Carlton.

Another one of those artists is Chick Corea. Together, you formed the electric jazz/fusion band Return To Forever. The band won a Grammy for Forever and recorded eight other successful albums. Describe what made that collaboration such a huge success.

Chick and I started playing together around 1970 with Stan Getz. Later we formed many different groups of which Return To Forever was one. A major one. It was great being able to spearhead a movement together. That movement was jazz-rock, jazz-fusion or just fusion…whatever one wants to call it.

One thing special about my relationship with Chick was that he was very encouraging about me writing my own compositions. I had never been challenged in that area before. Composing has become essential to my career.

On the whole, Return to Forever was like a traveling university. At the time the record companies didn’t know what the hell we were doing, but people were coming out to see the shows and we were selling records. Basically, we were as loud as rock bands, but we brought technique to it. It was a great time. We were experimenting with new concepts of uniting those genres. Fusion of jazz and rock was somewhat of an “exposure gateway” of the time. Fans of rock were exposed to jazz and jazz fans were exposed to rock. It gave listeners an appetite for discovery. It still does.

I think it’s interesting that jazz-fusion or jazz-rock has been assimilated into so many genres of music now. I hear it in Gospel, Rock, Pop, Country and more.

6.  You also had tremendous success working with the late George Duke. You were known as the Clarke/Duke Project in 1981. You two recorded three albums and toured together in 2006, 2012, and 2013, actually, up until Mr. Duke passed. What was the highlight of working with George over the years?

Probably the best connection I’ve had on stage and off is with George. I loved George as a brother and had the highest respect for him as a man and a musician. I feel forever fortunate to have had him as a friend for more than forty years. The most fun I had touring was with George because we had such a good time together. So often on a tour the comedy doesn’t live up to the music. In our case it did. George left a huge footprint in our industry. He was a light, bright star with a certain unique skill set.

I always admired George’s sophisticated musicality. Few have the ability to walk through so many different genres as he did…R&B, Jazz, Pop, Rock, and Classical. He knew all well and didn’t have any weaknesses. Incredibly, he understood how to weave these all together. I strive for that myself.

In homage to George, I dedicated my last album, UP to him and made a conscious decision to include his music in every show and project this year.

7.  In 2014, you produced The Stanley Clarke Band: UP which received a NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Jazz Album in 2015, and the song Last Train To Sanity was nominated for a Grammy in 2015 for Best Jazz Arrangement Instrumental or A Cappella. How was UP different from other projects?

UP is the most energetic, fun, rhythmic and upbeat album that I have ever done. My goal was to make a record with my personal friends. The entire album concept was experimentation. I wanted the creative process to be as effortless as possible.

Everyone came prepared and ready to play. All are fantastic musicians and there was an ease and naturalness to our sessions, especially considering the various genres everyone came from. The talent ranged from the great Michael Jackson session rhythm section of John Robinson, Paul Jackson, Jr. and Greg Phillinganes to my friends from rock like Stewart Copeland and Joe Walsh to my newer friends from the more classical Harlem String Quartet as well as so many more. They came to the studio to give everything they had and it was a creative process that I am grateful to have experienced.

8.  Your own record label Roxboro Entertainment was formed in 2010. Aside from your own projects, it’s also home to other musicians as well as projects geared towards education in music. Has this been a goal of yours since the beginning of your career?

Not really. The music “business” is a whole different industry from when I started out. Then, major record companies ruled. Now we’re all trying to find our place. Access to new technology and the Internet has changed almost everything.

I launched Roxboro Entertainment Group in 2010. My business model includes music publishing for my own and other musicians’ work, as well as the development of various projects aimed at music education.

I chose a selection of artists whose work I personally liked, but had not had a lot of recording exposure. So far the roster includes guitarist Lloyd Gregory, multi-instrumentalist Kennard Ramsey, keyboardist Sunnie Paxson, Ukrainian-born pianist, arranger and keyboardist Ruslan Sirota, jazz piano prodigy Beka Gochiashvili from Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia and most recently singer Natasha Agrama’s CD, The Heart of Infinite Change. Natasha is my daughter and I’m very proud of her work and accomplishments.

9.  In addition to your success over the years as an accomplished artist creating music that will live forever and establishing a respectful legacy, you and your wife Sofia established The Stanley Clarke Foundation over a decade ago. What is the foundation’s main mission?

It’s very simple really. In 2002 my wife, Sophia, and I created The Stanley Clarke Foundation. So far, we’ve been able to offer a generous amount of scholarships to the Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles. One day I’d love it to expand to other regions. There is certainly the need.

The foundation is something near and dear to our hearts. We strongly believe that those who have reached success in realizing their own artistic vision have a duty to help others in their struggle to emerge. I’ve always believed that “talent” and not one’s socioeconomic background should be the basis of an individual’s chance to go on to create artistically.

10.  On November 6th, 2015, D-STRINGZ, an acoustic project, was released featuring yourself, violinist Jean Luc-Ponty, and guitarist Bireli Lagrene. How would you describe this album, and what sets it apart?

D-Stringz is entirely acoustic–drumless. I think the album will make listeners rethink how to listen to some of their favorites like: Blue Train and Mercy Mercy Mercy. I’ve been very pleased that reviewers have been very positive and seem to get the point.

We first played together as a trio at a concert last year marking Jean-Luc’s 50th year as a professional and agreed to record together. It was a treat and a true collaboration. Jean-Luc and I had toured on and off for years, but Biréli Lagrène, who is also French, is much less well known to the jazz establishment. Bireli, a guitar virtuoso very popular in Europe, comes from the classic French mold of Django Reinhardt-laced gypsy swing. But, he’s also good at dancing around the fringes of soul, blues, flamenco, jazz and whatever else can be played on guitar. I think people here will enjoy getting introduced to him.

11.  Aside from touring, Mr. Clarke, what does 2016 look like for you?

2016 looks like it will be a wonderful busy year. I’m going to be touring in Europe starting mid-February. Over a break in Europe I’m planning to record my next Stanley Clarke Band CD in Brussels.

I have a movie I scored coming out April 15th. It’s the next in the popular Barbershop franchise, Barbershop: The Next Cut. This one is directed by my old friend Malcolm D. Lee. I’ve done several movies with him, the last being Best Man’s Holiday. Barbershop: The Next Cut stars Ice Cube, Anthony Anderson, Common, Nicki Minaj and others.

I’m also working on a documentary about my career and have some other projects up my sleeve.

I always have things going. I love to keep busy

12.  Finally, if you could have a super power, what would it be, and why?

To be able to be physically in more places than one at the same moment….

The reason is that I would be able to get more things done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saxophonist Greg Chambers

Greg Chambers’ passion for contemporary/smooth jazz is very evident when you hear his melodies flow from one song to the other on his third cd release “After Hours.” He has been playing the saxophone since the age of 8. At that young age he wasn’t aware that he would be playing for a living. Following his love for the saxophone ultimately led him to UCLA where he earned a Masters of Music Degree in Saxophone. Greg’s training and talent enabled him to work with some of the best in classical music. Those opportunities he is grateful to have been a part of. However, Chambers had to follow his passion. His decision then, and now three record’s later he’s proven that he’s exactly where he should be. He feels that being versatile is very important, and his transition to smooth jazz was an easy one. For his latest project Greg collaborated with Paul Brown, Jonathan Fritzen, Ross Bolton, Louis Fasman, and Darren Rahn. “After Hours” is a combination of grooves that take you on an up-tempo journey with “Groovin’ High”, then mellows you out with beautiful songs like “Chelsea’s Song”, and “Your Place Or Mine.”

Listen as Greg and I discuss his career and music.

Greg Chambers

Greg Chambers