A good example of staying power -- as in a musical group of composers and players evolving, performing and recording -- is when your kids invite you to hear a "new" jazz sound they have discovered with a band you've been listening to since your college days.

Such is the enduring quality, the innovation and eclecticism attributed to the jazz ensemble Pieces of a Dream, performing the last two shows of its three-day run tonight at Blues Alley.

The group was formed in 1976 by Philadelphia teenagers -- bassist Cedric Napoleon, drummer Curtis Harmon and keyboardist James Lloyd. Their mentor back then was Dan Harmon, Curtis' dad and assistant director of the jazz band at their school.

"I'd take them out of school on the weekends and go to a lot of the colleges," remembered Dan Harmon, who, to this day, continues to manage the group. "They would do their performance, do their homework and be back in school Monday morning."

Before long, Pieces of a Dream (a name they took from a Michel Legrand composition recorded by Stanley Turrentine) was featured on Temple University's pioneering jazz station, WRTI-FM.

"Back then, they were playing before Wynton Marsalis," Dan Harmon continued. "Count Basie said they were a hard act to follow."

Yet it was the late jazz legend, saxophone player Grover Washington, who fueled the group to success when he suggested it open for him on a world tour. Washington then proceeded to produce the group's first three recordings.

Thirty years and 15 albums later, Pieces of a Dream is headed by the duo of Curtis Harmon and James Lloyd, who also does all of their composing as well as writing hit tunes for saxophone artists like Walter Beasley and Eric Darius.

If you go Pieces of a Dream Where: Blues Alley Jazz Supper Club, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW When: 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday Info: $37.75; 202-337-4141; bluesalley.com

Though he loves writing (he calls the duo's style a little bit of straight-ahead, R&B and contemporary fusion all with a gospel influence), Lloyd prefers the excitement of performing live and presenting the works in their vast repertoire. Audiences at Blues Alley, he says, will hear "a mixture of old and new, songs that go back to 1981," and the show, he promises, will have "very high energy, with some nice, mellow, intimate moments." The two men, along with guitarist Rohn Lawrence and bassist David Dyson, will perform hits such as "Vision Accomplished," "Mount Airy Groove" and "FO FI FO."

Audiences will no doubt request works from albums that include their most recent, "Soul Intent," "Pillow Talk" and "No Assembly Required." Curtis and Lloyd will be happy to oblige.

"Our live show, I feel humbly, far surpasses our recordings," Lloyd said. "Anyone who hasn't seen us live, please do, because I don't think you'll be disappointed."