Craig joined "Rock N Roll Hall-of-Fame" singer Frankie Valli for his touring band.
For all my Jazz lovers out there on the Internet, Craig Pilo is just what the doctor ordered. Craig, who is originally from Connecticut, is a graduate of the University of North Texas College of Music in 1995 with his Bachelors Degree in Music. One of his biggest accomplishments earlier on his career was when he tour in 1997 with famed trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. A part of Craig's success, according to Craig, has been contributed to some of his earlier private teachers. Between the times around 1998-2002, Craig continued to work passionately perfecting his craft. By the time 2002 rolled around, he landed a regular gig playing alone side with the legendary Pat Boone. More recently, Craig joined Frankie Valli on his touring band. Now comes 2007 and Craig Pilo is ready to show the music industry just what he is made of. I promise you this folks—when you listen to Craig's music—you will NOT be disappointed. Good stuff. Check out this fun interview that Craig took the time to do for the magazine recently.
Music Now: When and how did you first become interested in music?
Craig Pilo: I was probably 8 years old when my Dad took me to see Buddy Rich. I
knew right then and there that drumming was something I wanted to do.
Music Now: How long have you been playing music?
Craig Pilo: Well, I'm 35 now so 26 years, maybe? I started playing in a drum corps
when I was pretty young. I think I started playing and practicing
when I was 8 or 9.
Music Now: What are your musical influences?
Craig Pilo: This is always a tough question because there are so many. Way too
many to list here, but I'll try to put down a few of my major
influences. As far as drummers go, there's Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa,
Louie Bellson, Mel Lewis, Sonny Payne, Sol Guben from the Big Band
scene. Bernard Purdie, Grady Tate, Shelly Manne, Ed Thigpen, Joe
Morello, Colin Bailey, Hal Blaine, Jim Keltner, Simon Phillips, David
Garibaldi, Jack DeJohnnette, Tony Williams, Jimmy Cobb, Herlin Riley,
Bill Stewart, Trilock Gurtu, Peter Erskine, Steve Smith, Zigaboo, John
Bonham, Jeff Porcaro, Jeff Watts etc. Then, the more modern guys
Weckl, Colauita, Dennis Chambers, and my college buddy Keith Carlock.
Again, this is a fraction of the drumming influences, these are just
the guys off the top of my head.
Aside from Drummers, I've really been influenced by guys like Miles
Davis, John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, Joe Zawinul, are a few of the
jazz guys. I'm NOT a jazz Nazi, but those guys were innovators. Pop/Rock
music had its innovators too, but the jazz guys seemed to push the
envelope and captivate my interest a little bit more.
That being said, James Brown, Donald Fagan, Zeppelin, John Scofield,
Steve Khan, John Ambercrombie, Chaka Khan, Peter Gabriel, Stevie
Wonder, Sting, Marc Johnson, and more recently Wayne Krantz are a few
other influences just off the top of my head that really gave me
something to appreciate. It's always hard to define your influences
because I've always taken different things from different people
(drummers or not) and kind of fused it together to come up with my own
Music Now: Does anyone in your family play music?
Craig Pilo: Well, my Dad used to play drums, he's the one who hipped me to jazz.
He played in clubs around New York when he was growing up. I think
drumming fell by the wayside when he went to engineering school, but
his taste for jazz was there forever.
Music Now: When you are making music, describe how you are feeling?
Craig Pilo: It's the best feeling in the world. Especially when your part of a
project in the company of guys you really dig and care about. The
feeling is heavenly.
Music Now: Why did you write or decide to play any of your songs?
Craig Pilo: This is another tough question. I needed to do my own thing for my
own gratification, but it I didn't want to make a “dig me” CD either.
So, I'd say rather than “deciding” to write or play these songs, more
so, I arrived at writing and playing these songs.
I always liked the Fender Rhodes Zawinul thing, almost Weather Report,
but not as fusiony. More so the Cannonball/Zawinul thing leaning more
towards Herbie with the looseness and soloing. I wrote Shades of Blue
first and then brought the guys in to play on it. The tune itself is
very simple, but what the guys did was really great. I love the
sparseness of the bass, the cool solos and the funk shuffle kind of
swing feel. After we recorded this tune, I modeled the entire CD
after the sound we captured on that tune.
In the beginning I had 4 or 5 Latin arrangements on the CD at one
time, but I found myself playing parts rather than the loose, floaty
thing with the Fender Rhodes playing the changes which is what I
wanted. I really wanted to get away from Tradition on this project,
so for 5 out of the 7 covers we veered off the path of tradition for
the arrangements and approach. Two of the covers, Teen Town and Red
Clay, are pretty much like the originals with a few minor tweaks.
The CD was finished and I realized I wanted a more ECM like tune in
the vein of early Herbie or even Keith Jarrett. I was toying with a
few sus chords and listening to Herbie when Early Cynical Mystery was
created. There really wasn't room on the CD at the time, so I
scrapped an open drum solo and 1 more of the Latin tunes to make room.
Music Now: Why did you choose to play this kind of music?
Craig Pilo: To be honest, fusion isn't really my first choice of music to listen
to, but when I sat down to create music people might want to hear
combined with what I had to say, for lack of a better word, a fusion
of jazz and funk is what came out.
Music Now: What do you feel is missing in the music industry today?
Craig Pilo: Well, a lot of it (certainly not all) seems to lack heart and soul.
Plus it's my personal opinion that the music scene today seems to
spend way too much time on image. I love pop music and rock-n-roll,
but I think if newer artists spent more time practicing and studying
their craft and less time preparing a wardrobe and choreography, they
might be able to make some sort of contribution. I am not a really
strong songwriter, I focus on playing the drums, writing is a new
thing for me and I only do it when I have something to say. I have no
ambitions to go out and write something purely for the sake of hoping
it will sell. I'm not knocking anyone or any style in particular, but
when I'm flipping through the radio stations sitting in traffic out
here in LA, the content sure seems light.
Music Now: Do you feel like you are a role model to others?
Craig Pilo: No, I would hope not. I don't have any bad habits or habits that I
would hide from a younger audience, but I think parents and teachers
should be role models, not musicians.
Music Now: What keeps you going even when times you feel like giving up?
Craig Pilo: This is a really great question and I really don't have a good answer.
Music is in my blood. It sure seems like there is nothing I can do
about it, and music is something that will always be part of my life.
It seems like music is what I'm “supposed” to be doing.
Music Now: What are some of the big projects you are working on?
Craig Pilo: Well, you and I might define “big projects” a little differently, but
if you mean “big name” projects, I don't really have much in the
wings. There is rumor of a Live Frankie Valli DVD, but until the
shoot gets scheduled, it will remain a rumor.
I am working with Angela Carole Brown on her new CD called
“Expressionism” which has been getting some attention because of a
couple covers she tackled in her own way. That CD should be out by
the end of 2007 or first thing 2008. Most of it is in the can, but
now we start editing, mixing, mastering, manufacturing and you know
how long that can take for an indie artist!
Having just finished my first solo CD, I'd love to do another someday,
but I really should put a band together at some point and get out and
play some live dates with my own music. When the touring lightens up
for me, I'll be exploring all that first chance I get, but in the
meantime, I'm really living out of a suitcase.
Music Now: What can we expect from you in the next several years?
Craig Pilo: To be honest, I hope my next few years simply mirror my last few
years. Things have been really great for me. I've had the
opportunity to meet and work with a lot of really great people. The
Frankie Valli/Edgar Winter/Player camps are all made up of really
successful musicians and managers. Maybe we'll all branch out and do
other things, but after with all 3 groups (Player on and off for 8 or
9 years, Frankie for nearly 2 and recently adding Edgar to the mix)
I'll continue to work with these guys as long as they'll have me. The
musical direction is really strong in all 3 groups.
As far as my solo CD goes, I'm taking it one step at a time. I'm just
thrilled it's been well received. I'll be moving it forward as best I
can with the time I have.
Music Now: Any new releases, updates, or anything else you would like to tell our
Craig Pilo: Look for “Expressionism” by Angela Carol Brown late 2007 or early
2008. This will be a really great recording.
Photo used in this story was provided by Craig Pilo.
Junior's Cave Online Magazine/JC Internet Radio Staff Team,