So why is the fusion-soul band Pieces of a Dream, hitmakers from the 1980s, on the Jazz at the Gem series this weekend? And why will this be their third performance at 18th and Vine in 10 years?
One big reason, Gem Theater and Blue Room booking boss Gerald Dunn likes to point out, is this: “They’ve got their jazz together.”
There’s a depth and versatility to the music they make that no disposable pop star can hope to touch.
The Pieces players really got their jazz together as teenagers in the Philadelphia area. They caught the ear of Grover Washington Jr., one of the biggest smooth-jazz stars of the time, and he got them a record deal while they were still teens.
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Their first album arrived in 1981, in a golden age for smooth soul on the radio. Hits like “Warm Weather” and the ever-charming “Fo-Fi-Fo” kept Pieces on the air and on the road. They’ve managed to keep making their music for 40 years.
At this point, the band is down to two full-time members, keyboardist James Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon — collaborators from the band’s 1970s beginnings. They lay down tasteful grooves that float like a dream, that never push too hard. But in the heat of the moment, they can bend those grooves to chase after inspiration.
▪ There’s another jazz highlight at 18th and Vine on the same night: Bruce Barth, a widely experienced modern-jazz pianist who has been heard around the world with Phil Woods, James Moody, Terence Blanchard, Stanley Turrentine and a Marsalis or two. Barth, who might be familiar to Kansas Citians for his work with Karrin Allyson, brings his trio to the Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10.
▪ The People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City, directed by Brad Cox, performs at 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5, at the RecordBar, 1520 Grand Blvd.
▪ The Blue Room also has a jam run by trombonist Jason Goudeau at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6; the quartet of keyboardist Rich Hill and reed man Charles Perkins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9; and keyboardist Charles Williams and his Genre band at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10.
▪ The Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., has drummer Danny Rojas, organist Everette DeVan, singer Eboni Fondren and guitarist Matt Hopper at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5, followed by tenor saxophonist Steve Lambert’s quintet at 10:30 p.m.; singer Molly Hammer at noon Monday, followed by Hopper’s trio at 6 p.m. and drummer Todd Strait’s trio at 10:30 p.m.; organist Chris Hazelton’s trio at 7 p.m. Tuesday, followed by Charles Perkins, bassist Gerald Spaits and Strait at 11:30 p.m.; organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 6 p.m. Wednesday, followed by saxophonist Ernest Melton’s quartet at 10:30 p.m.; Guitar Elation at 6 p.m. Thursday, followed by pianist Joe Cartwright with bassist Tyrone Clark and Strait at 10:30 p.m.; Eboni Fondren and Joe Cartwright at 2 p.m. Friday, followed by pianist Tim Whitmer’s quartet at 5:30 p.m., Molly Hammer’s quartet downstairs at 8:30 p.m. and Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 upstairs at 10 p.m.; and bassist Bob Bowman’s group at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by OJT at 6 p.m. and cornetist Alex Abramovitz at 9 p.m.
Joe Klopus, 816-234-4751