Unsupervised is the second solo endeavor by drummer, composer, producer and Rue de la Harpe recording artist, Craig Pilo. The album features musicians Ed Czach, Jim King, Bill Esparza, Chris Smith, Mitch Forman, Rick Baptist, Angela Crole Brown and Brandon Brigham on the music of Stevie Wonder, Keith Jarrett, Billy Cobham, David Leonhardt, Randy Brecker, Jose Bertami, and Craig Pilo.
Although I was thoroughly impressed with Craig Pilo's 2007 debut solo Jazz album, Just Play, upon hearing it for the first time almost five years ago, I have to say that the compositions, arrangements and drumming on his most recent album, Unsupervised, has essentially blown me over. Pilo's musical maturity and growth over the last five years, as a producer, composer, arranger and drummer, is outstanding — a testament to his hard work, creativity and professionalism.
The Craig Pilo Trio:
Craig Pilo - Drums
Ed Czach - Piano
Jim King - Bass
Unsupervised opens with a wonderful arrangement of Keith Jarrett's “Spiral Dance,” with a driving upright bass riff, drums, Rhodes piano and saxophone. Perhaps the most interactive cut on the CD, Pilo's drumming and interplay between the soloists and melodic voices certainly invokes the emotion implied by the tune's title.
"Whispers of Contentment" is gentle ballad propelled by Pilo's creative rhythmic sensibilities and showcases some tasty solo brush work in the last two minutes of the tune.
"HGH" is a supercharged tune, composed by Pilo, that has that 70's jazz-fusion sound to it with displaced backbeats and the occasional implied metric modulation.
The Stevie Wonder tune "As" has a unique approach to it, both in the groove and arrangement. Pilo's drum groove sounds like a marriage of a songo and fatback; very original. Drum solo breaks feature brisk flurries around the toms and rapid-fire double bass figures. The background vocals towards the end round out the song nicely, although it sounds so good, I almost wish they had been used more.
"One a Day" is another Pilo original, straight-ahead rock backbeat feel with some interesting unison melodic rhythms played by the trio. I picked up on quite a bit of push and pull in the timing (eg. groove to unison figures) throughout this tune, which gave me a rather unsettling feeling.
For those familiar with Brazilian drumming styles, "Partido Alto" is what you might expect but with a unique groove interpretation by Pilo. A great tune and feel — my favorite drum groove on the album; I'm stealing it.
Pilo's third composition on the CD, "One for DLS" is a straight forward 12-bar blues tune with a nice fusion twist.
The small group approach to the Billy Cobham tune, "Stratus," worked nicely, leaving lots of space for Pilo to embellish and set-up various parts of the tune.
The fourth (and final) Pilo composition, "Mulberry Sky," is a beautiful ballad with the addition of saxophone and trumpet to the trio's sound.
"Some Skunk Funk," is a wonderful rendition and arrangement of the classic Brecker Brothers tune. Pilo stretches out towards the end of the tune, having a lot of fun as he solos over a melodic riff from the band.
As producer, Craig Pilo has done a fabulous job in organizing and selecting tunes for the album. Each track on Unsupervised has its own persona and individuality, yet the cohesion remains as we are taken through various moods and emotions.
It almost seems strange to reference the drumming on a jazz-fusion album as the work of, what I call, a "song drummer" — but that's what Pilo has done on this album — playing just what the song needs without being overly self-indulgent with the chops and pyrotechnics behind the drumkit. With the phenomenal drumming on this CD, it is clear to me that we should leave Craig Pilo Unsupervised a little more often!