Unsupervised is the latest release by Rue de la Harpe recording artist Craig Pilo. It features Jim King, Ed Czach, 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. In the tradition of all recordings by Rue de la Harpe artists, Unsupervised pushes the boundary of jazz music precedent, and forces acceptance of new and innovative grooves on both familiar and unfamiliar tunes.
"Drummer Craig Pilo who debuted his solo Jazz album Just Play four years ago has upped the ante with his newest release Unsupervised, a beautiful masterpiece that is breathtaking, and yes those are a lot of superlatives in the same sentence, but the praise is well deserved. From the opening song, Keith Jarrett’s “Spiral Dance,” led by Jim King’s emotive upright bass playing and Ed Czach’s piano, the listener senses that this is no ordinary instrumental collection of songs. Saxophonist Bill Esparaza serves up a killer solo.
Craig Pilo’s versatility and keen sensibilities as a drummer have long been appreciated by musical luminaries such as, Maynard Ferguson, Edgar Winter, Frankie Valli, Pat Boone, Player and Billy Vera and Unsupervised is a testament to why that is the case.
This writer is not a huge fan of some of the Jazz Fusion, which occasionally emerges from drummers who are wailing on their drum kit and cymbals so hard that you get the impression they are retaliating against a mugger however, that is not the type of Jazz Fusion to which Craig Pilo treats his listeners. The mood Pilo creates is seductive and romantic. We often talk about phrasing when discussing the performances of very good vocalists and seldom do we use that term when talking about musicians, yet for the players on Unsupervised it is very appropriate to talk in those terms, for they play with emotion and they evoke a strong emotional response from the listener. The arrangements created by Craig Pilo allow them to linger and to have fun, as appears to be what Czach, Pilo and King are doing on Craig Pilo’s delicious original song “High.” The arrangement plays out almost as though it is an open section during a live performance.
Pilo’s drumming picks up the pace and drives the Stevie Wonder song “As,” which features Angela Carole Brown and Brandon Brigham on vocals. Although Craig Pilo’s drumsticks are more active and the tom drums and cymbals are much more evident, the playing stays smooth and Ed Czach and Craig Pilo present a fabulous mid-tempo performance, with Jim King’s bass once again providing the foundation for this song.
The second of four Craig Pilo original compositions, “One A Day,” segues between being reflective and spritely and the ambience is that of a cozy club, with good acoustics and an intimate feel.
The song selection for Unsupervised is very good, because there are enough mood changes to keep the listener engaged and yet they are not so disparate from one another as to leave the collection of songs without an identity. In producing this album, Pilo has left his fellow musicians plenty of room to shine, as evidenced with Jose Bertrami’s “Partido Alto,” which showcases Bill Esparaza on saxophone.
It never ceases to amaze me how good bassists use their fingers to make those strings talk and Jim King does just that on another scrumptious and upbeat original “One For DLS.” Czach, King and Pilo have played together for many years and that is easy to detect, as their instruments flow perfectly together and the musicians complement each other well.
Pilo borrows from David Leonhardt with “Whispers Of Contentment,” Billy Cobham (“Stratus”), Randy Brecker’s “Some Skunk Funk,” which closes the album and features Rick Baptist on trumpet and Mitchel Forman on keys. The fourth Craig Pilo original song is “Mulberry Sky.” Unsupervised by Craig Pilo is an exquisite work of art. "
- Reviewed by Joe Montague
This review is protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved by Riveting Riffs Magazine