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Pieces of a Dream: Just Funkin' Around

Jeff Winbush By

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It would be the easiest thing to say about the new Pieces of A Dream record, "If you already like Pieces of A Dream, you'll probably like this. If you don't, you won't." That would be real easy. It would also be real accurate.

I road-tested Just Funkin' Around with a bunch of 20-somethings I was transporting from home back to college. I put it on and waited. Waited for them to say "Turn it up" or "turn if off." Nobody said nothing. That's a perfect smooth jazz album. Not bad enough to hate it and not good enough to remember it.

Pieces of A Dream have been making their particular brand of smooth/funk jazz for over 40 years if you're a fan you'll like Just Funkin' Around. If you're not, this isn't going to be the recording which changes your mind. The personnel liner notes proclaim Curtis Hamon plays "live" drums and "live" percussion and is joined by Randy Bowland's "live" guitar with David Dyson on "live" bass. The natural question is if you're not playing "live" instruments are you playing "dead" ones instead?

Not that it matters. This is smooth jazz at its smoothest. If what you want are ten tracks that never vary, never take a quick left turn, never surprises and never does anything less than make the donuts, this was made for you, so enjoy! Even though it's tough to remember any of these

For anyone else who loves jazz. Sorry. JAZZ as defined by Merriam-Webster is (a) : American music developed especially from ragtime and blues and characterized by propulsive syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, and often deliberate distortions of pitch and timbre.

That's what jazz is. Just Funkin' Around is none of those things as it's more arranged sound than it is jazz. This record is like a bag of fast-food french fries. It's safe and generic and as bland and as forgettable as it gets and none of it is worth hearing again.

To call this "disappointing" would assume there was a reason to have expectations it wouldn't be. Pieces of A Dream has been around four decades, cranked out 22 albums and their oeuvre has provided only modest instrumental music with some dance, funk and R&B' thrown in, lightly seasoned with jazz. It's enough to build a long career upon but it makes for a truly tedious listening experience.

Track Listing: Right Back Atcha; Just Funkin’ Around; Shaken, Not Stirred; Sensuosity; Fast Lane; A New Day; On The Move; No Doubt; Let’s Do This; Manhattan

Personnel: Curtis Harmon: live drums, percussion, keyboards; James Lloyd: keyboards; George Granville III: keyboards, Randy Bowland: live guitar; Tony Watson Jr.: keyboards, saxophones; David Dyson: live bass, keyboards

Title: Just Funkin' Around | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Shanachie Records

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