CD Reviews
Drummer Cafe


Serving drummers and percussionists since 1996.

Craig Pilo - Just PlayOriginally from Connecticut, Craig Pilo graduated from the University of North Texas College of Music in 1995 with a Bachelors Degree in Music.  In the fall of 1996 he moved to Los Angeles where he resides today. In 1997 Craig did the fall tour with famed trumpeter Maynard Ferguson to promote his One More Trip To Birdland CD. Craig attributes his early success to some of his private teachers, Alan Dawson, Ed Soph, Dave Weckl, and Jeff Hamilton.

From 1998 until 2002 Craig worked around Los Angeles and maintained a regular schedule with Player ("Baby Come Back"), a few local artists, and did sessions for TV, Film, and local artists' CD’s. A partial list of credits from this period includes: Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Sex and the City, CSI Miami, Malcolm in the Middle, Sabrina, The Osbornes, and the movies BasicDirty Dancing II: Havana Nights. Some of the artists include: Billy Vera, Malo, Heatwave, Blue Magic, Deniece Williams, Don Rickles, The Delfonics, Tommy Roe, Chris Montez, and Danny Weis (Iron Butterfly).

In the Spring of 2002 Craig began playing regularly with Pat Boone.  He did several tours over the next few years and recorded for a few of Pats CD’s.  Craig played on the title cut “Under God” for the re-release of Pat’s American Glory CD released in 2002. In 2004 Craig broke away from his regular gigs and began playing with Angela Carole Brown and did a few tours with the Red Elvises. Each project produced a CD that included Craig on the drums. The Red Elvises recorded and released a live CD from one of the concerts in Russia, and Angela Carole Brown recorded and released The Slow Club. In the summer of 2005 Craig rejoined Pat Boone for his tour of Ireland. And in the summer of 2006 Craig played the Playboy Jazz Festival with Angela Carole Brown and The Slow Club Quartet.

In November of 2005, Craig joined "Rock N Roll Hall-of-Fame" singer Frankie Valli for his touring band.  Craig continues touring with Frankie into 2007, but can also be seen touring with Edgar Winter, and Player. In April of 2007 Craig released a solo CD Just Play on Rue De La Harpe Records.


1. Early Cynical Mystery (Pilo)
2. Autumn Leaves (Kosma/Mercer/Prevert)
3. Shades of Blue (Pilo)
4. Red Clay (Hubbard)
5. Impressions (Coltrane)
6. Awkwardly Mobile (Pilo)
7. Teen Town (Pastorius)
8. All Blues (Davis)
9. Softly As in A Morning Sunrise (Romberg/Hammerstein)
10. Miles Mode (Coltrane)

* Also included on this CD are two bonus videos of live performances (not from the album) of Impressions and Early Cynical Mystery.

Craig Pilo - drums
Michael Forman - fender rhodes
Ed Czach - keyboards
Tom Kennedy, Bart Samolis, Keith Hubacher, Jim King, David Enos, Jonathan Pintoff - bass
Roman Dudok, Doug Webb - saxophone
Bryan Brock - bongos


I first met Craig Pilo back in the late 90's, just after he moved to Los Angeles, through another organization I had at the time, the Drum Ring International. Craig, along with the likes of Dom Famularo, Carmine Appice, Peter Erskine and others, were all a part of this internet based community which later evolved into what is now known as the Drummer Cafe. I haven't kept in close contact with Craig, outside of an occasional email from time to time, but I was very excited to hear about his new CD, Just Play ... not only as a fellow drummer, but as a friend.

I'm very impressed with Craig's musicianship on this CD! Not only is he a great drummer, but his compositional skills are superb ... and he did a fantastic job producing the entire album! Craig arranged all three of his own tunes and was co-arranger of all the jazz standards which fills out the rest of the album. Impressed yet? Wait to you hear his playing!

Every tune on this instrumental jazz CD breaths and has life. It's obvious that each instrumentalist gave it their all; playing with a lot of passion, heart and soul. The overall vibe of the album comes off with a live feel, even though it was recorded in a recording studio (Wolftone Studios, Reseda, CA). When it comes to jazz, I think this is extremely important ingredient; it's what jazz really is ... spontaneous, 'in the moment', music.

I first listened to this CD in my car without checking out the track list. I got past the first tune and thought 'nice playing'. With about a minute passing on track 2, I said outloud (I'm alone in the car mind you) "I know this tune ..." amd quickly went for the liner notes. Reading outloud "'Autumn Leaves' ... what a great arrangement!" I think I made verbal praises on every tune, not just for the playing (every instrumentalist is great), but the arrangements really got me ... especially on the standards. I think it's worth mentioning at this time that Just Play has been nominated for two Los Angeles Music Awards in the Instrumental Jazz category!

As I listen to the CD while writing this review, I try to think back and reflect on why I like the album so much. I believe one of the biggest positives I get from Just Play is all the space, sound and color ... ala Joe Zawinul / Cannonball Adderley. Another reason I dig this album, besides that it just makes me smile, is that I can hear all of the influences of Craig's teachers/instructors in his playing. Dave Weckl, Jeff Hamilton, Ed Soph and the late Alan Dawson whom I was also fortune to briefly study with. I can think of no greater tribute to one's mentor than to hear them in what you do. Craig has definitely done this ... and more ... coming into his own with his unique musical language and approach.

Young players and students of drumming may be wondering ... what about the drumming? Well, Craig Pilo has a lot to say, and what he does say ... he says very well. The drum sounds on the CD are great, and drums are mixed up front ... where they should be!!! The listener will quickly be able to hear that Pilo has a strong understanding of the jazz/funk/latin music styles, not to mention the firm hold he has on polyrhythms, rhythmic displacement, odd note groupings/figures. But the beauty in all of this lies not in that Craig Pilo has a lot of chops and can solo his tokus off ... rather that he knows how and when to use them to make music ... which is what it's all about ... right?! No short-cuts here. Musicianship comes with time and seasoning, and Pilo has been marinating a very long time.

Just Play features a wonderful line-up of musicians, all working together to bring you an in-the-pocket musical chemistry that will make you want to listen to the CD again and again ... and spend hours in the practice room. And speaking of practice room, let me end with a quote from the CD's  liner notes:

"Often times worrying about what's appropriate, acceptable, traditional, or correct
can prevent us from doing anything at all. The simple fear of being criticized for doing our own thing
can damn us to our practice rooms without ever seeing the light of day.
At some point, I honestly feel it's important to let the critics be critics,
and for better or worse ... Just Play." — Craig Pilo


Read what others are saying about Just Play:

"Connecticut native Craig Pilo has been a Los Angeles-based studio drummer since graduating from the University of North Texas College of Music in the 1990s. His musical evolution has included recording and touring gigs with everyone from Pat Boone to Maynard Ferguson and Frankie Valli. But his love for '70s-style jazz fusion ala Weather Report and Chick Corea's Return to Forever is clear in "Just Play," his latest release.  Pilo and a revolving group of musicians tackle an assemblage of standards ("Autumn Leaves," "Impressions") along with several originals by Pilo, and the result is an eclectic and compelling mix.  Standouts include a cover of Jaco Pastorius' "Teen Town," Pilo's homage to one of the key compositions of the genre and the era. Pilo is crisp and forceful but never intrusive on the drums, and saxman Doug Webb offers his own innovative spin on the original Wayne Shorter solo. (This track takes on a particular poignancy now, just weeks after the death of Pastorius' Weather Report bandmate, keyboardist Joe Zawinul.)  Miles Davis' "All Blues," meanwhile, gets a funky reworking that has to be heard to be believed. Pilo supercharges the tempo with shades of Cuban jazz, and keyboardist Mitchel Forman pulls out all the stops on (what else?) the Fender Rhodes electric piano. (What better to revive memories of '70s fusion than the sounds of a Fender Rhodes?) Forman starts subtly with block chords, but is soon letting loose with a series of rapid-fire arpeggios, just to keep pace with Pilo's beat. Indeed, it's a tribute to Pilo that Forman's work is such a trippy highlight here; unlike some other drummer-leaders, Pilo is happy to share the spotlight and complement, not overwhelm, the rest of the band."

— Jazz CD Review.Com

"Pilo is a pro drummer (Frankie Valli, Maynard Ferguson) whose solo jazz project features a group of adept musicians on his original themes (and choice covers). Pilo allows his Fender Rhodes player to shine on the mellow “Early Cynical Mystery.” His bassist and sax player groove with skill and feel on “Shades of Blue.” Pilo’s pounding drums take center stage on “Awkwardly Mobile.” This disc will please listeners who’ve got a taste for hard jazz and impressive musicianship."

— Los Angeles Music Connection Magazine (Oct 2007)

Cron Job Starts