Giraldo Piloto & Klimax
Reviewed on this page:
Mira Si Te Gusta - Juego De Manos - Oye Como Va - Havana Spirit - Live 2002 En La Casa De La Musica - Giraldo Piloto - Klimax & Friends - Nadie Se Parece A Tí - Sólo Tú Y Yo - Klimax Para El Mundo (Live) - Todo Está Bién - Klimaxeando - Mis 21 Años
I have many regrets in life, but the chief one is that I went about fifteen years without listening to Piloto and his marvelous band.
By the time composer/drummer/bandleader Giraldo Piloto started his own group he was already established as a top songwriter, having penned huge hits for acts like NG La Banda ("Te Confunde Ser Esa Mujer"), Issac Delgado ("No Me Mires En Los Ojos") and Charanga Habanera ("Me Sube La Fiebre"; "Mi Estrella"). But he soon steered Klimax into choppier waters, innovating on every level at once - melody, harmony, rhythm, arrangement, subject matter - with head-spinning results, often in a wonderful way though sometimes overwhelming to a mortal listener.
Mira Si Te Gusta (1995)
By the mid-90s, a lot of bands were picking up on the timba sound spearheaded by Charanga Habanera and NG, but when Piloto started his own band he focused on tuneful songwriting ("Una Corazonada") and basic salsa conventions - percussion breaks, prominent piano montunos from Antonio Pérez
González and engaging ad-libs from vocalists Ernesto Manuitt Hernández, Alexander Pablo Diaz Gonzales and Manuel José Denis Martínez.
He's not afraid to tackle more traditional rhythms like the chachachá ("Juana Cha"), and unlike some more sterile bands, these folks really seem like they're having fun.
So when he does use patented NG devices like doubled piano-bass riffs ("Señora Dulzura"), synth sweetening or horn solos over percussion breakdowns ("Lo Que Me Falto Por Hacerte"), it's just the icing on the cake.
As time went by Piloto wrote so many other great songs that these tunes ("Consejo A Una Amiga" excepted) get short shrift, and for that reason even though this disc is more conservative than its successors it's arguably remained more fresh.
Juego De Manos (1997)
Farther in the same direction, moving away from the catchy but uncomplicated hits Piloto had written for others to music that's more individual but no less catchy (title track, which blends a romantic chorus and hummable vamps with a verse that's indescribably bizarre but somehow gorgeous).
Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate what he's doing is "El Cocinero," based on a chanted hook that would fit right on a concurrent NG disc, but then layers on folkloric vocals, a dissonant horn chart, and not one but three rappers; once the timba gears start kicking in you figure there are no more surprises, but then he calls back each of the previous layers so that you hear that the piece was internally coherent all along. Keyboardist/arranger Yusef Díz contributes a couple of tunes, and they're just as innovative, unusual and irresistible ("Te Los Marcaron") - Klimax's horn charts aren't as virtuosic as NG's, but they're more harmonically adventurous.
It's all so wild that "Ven Conmigo," kinetic timba that Bamboleo would've killed for, sounds positively ordinary in this company.
Piloto also drew on his family tree for inspiration, beginning a tradition of reviving one of the many 60s hits his father Giraldo Piloto Sr. had written with frequent writing partner Alberto Vera ("Fidelidad"); he even took on the cornball "Cuba" as well (apparently at the urging of his record company) but even he couldn't do much with that one.
Having said all that, a couple of Piloto's later records are easier to get into, and arguably more loaded with unforgettable choruses: This is as good a place to start as any, but it's not necessarily his peak.
After this record was banned from Cuban airwaves for lyrical content, Piloto wrote a response, "El Ventilador," which was itself banned: it can be found only on the live compilation 2o Concierto Eurotropical.
Oye Como Va (1999)
Considered Piloto's greatest achievement by many klimaxeros (no, that's not a real word) but for me it's a mix of highs and blahs.
Several tracks are reharmonized standards: the Tito Puente title track; another version of "Cuba"; Piloto y Vera's "Y Deja." Two more are hits Piloto originally wrote for other artists ("Mi Estrella" and "Te Confunda Ser Esa Mujer," each rearranged almost to unrecognizability). So there's fantastic stuff here - "Yo No Quiero Mi Novia Sea Religiosa" would be the career high point for almost anyone else; Díaz's "Una Guiñaita" is practically the Holy Grail of marrying sophistication and funk - just not as much as on some of his other
And I love quotes but Piloto goes to extremes: the bridge of the otherwise masterful "Regalo De Amor" is nothing but the main theme of "Caravan."
He is to Cuba as Frank Zappa is to the U.S. - no one else can do what he does (the love song with teeth "Porque Jugamos Con El Tiempo?") but at times you don't see why anyone would want to.
Havana Spirit (rec. 2000)
Possibly feeling he'd already conquered the realm of Cuban dance music, Piloto spent a few years exploring other styles. This first effort - never released - is basically a rock and roll record, though there are still horns aplenty and many of the rhythms are clave-based. If you can imagine Blood Sweat & Tears fast-forwarded to 1999, that's what this sounds like. "Como Soy" is the only lost classic here. Since I don't have credits I can't identify the female singer on "Tu Y Esta Noche" and Piloto y Vera's "Solo Tú Y Yo" - for some reason, perhaps to keep up with Bamboléo, loads of timba bands added female singers in the late 90s. (DBW)
Live 2002 En La Casa De La Musica (rec. 2002, rel. 2010)
Very long versions of mostly Oye Como Va tunes ("Y Deja"), but strangely they don't build up as much excitement as you'd expect ("Te Los Marcaron").
Part of the issue is, there's a lot of call and response that was probably much more fun for the audience in the club than for us at home (actually I don't know where you are but I'm saying home for simplicity).
I think this was only released when Piloto set up his own label, and if that's the case it's a strange choice: There's a show circulating from the same year in the same venue that's much more enjoyable, and there's plenty more where that came from.
Giraldo Piloto - Klimax & Friends (2002)
Piloto makes his case as the most singular, most original talent working in the field of dance music with this invigorating jazz-based set. My other favorite timberos - José Luis Cortés and Alexander Abreu - also play jazz well but in a very traditional way; Piloto has assimilated the same influences ("Melena Obbatalá," a Síntesis-style santería invocation) but goes well beyond them, creating (mostly) instrumental music that's indescribable - "Recorrido Habanero," sort of like a Fania big band conducted by Weather Report - and salient.
Though he doesn't build to the monstrous apexes of Klimax's dance-oriented work (except on "24 x 24"), the compositions are just as tuneful and unpredictable ("Sinfonia De Metales"). The high-powered guests add another layer of interest: Chucho Valdés ("Deb&ieacute; Llorar," the customary Piloto y Vera remake): Changuito; Germ´n Velasco ("Café Casino"); Abreu (almost everything).
Nadie Se Parece A Tí (2004)
After a couple of album-length genre experiments, Piloto tackles a slew of genres on one album.
The title track starts out as a cumbia and stays that way for quite a while before gradually mutating into uptempo timba. "La Mujer De Mi Vida" is a gorgeous love song with rap interludes and a glorious final act. "Cuando Yo Lo Quiera" tries on a variety of North American catchphrases and quotes while remaining ineffably Cuban.
On the other hand, a new version of "Debí Llorar" is even more traditional than the original.
Thematically the set is more coherent, with a heavy focus on romance - half the songs have "Mujer" in the title - though not necessarily an upbeat perspective ("La Rompeamor De La Habana," perhaps an answer to "El Ventilador").
Pianist José Marcos Crego steps to the forefront, crafting distinctive montunos for each tune in the manner of Peruchín or Melón Lewis ("La Mujer Piropo").
Later re-released as Siempre Tú.
Sólo Tú Y Yo (2008)
Most Piloto albums include at least a couple of head-scratchers, but this time everything connects.
The Piloto y Vera title track is a blend of love song and dance cut with a gorgeous melody that feels like it's always been part of you; "Tú No Eres" and "A Amarme Decidéte" follow a more traditional romantic opening/heavy groove pattern but are equally memorable.
"La Permuta" is another monster dance track, going through a wild series of transformations before winding up with a superfluous yet perfect quote from "Land Of 1,000 Dances"; elsewhere he quotes from a variety of 70s AM mush - the brief bridge of "Vuelve A Mí" references the Captain & Tennille and Chicago - and plays them completely straight, not so much a practical joke as notice that Piloto will draw from any source.
And yes, there are some detours: "Salir De Conquista" is basically merengue tipica complete with accordion; "La Matricula" nods to reggaeton; "Adios Amor" is NYC Sound right down to the Huey Dunbar-esque lead vocal; "Yo Sé Que Me Gusta Esa Mujer" is a love song that never kicks into timba gear, and you'll never miss it.
Klimax Para El Mundo (Live) (2011)
The disc concludes with two studio tracks which would later appear on Todo Está Bién (the fabulous "Lola"), but the bulk of the two-disc set is from a star-studded 2005 concert celebrating the band's tenth anniversary.
Most of the tunes come from the then-recent Nadie Se Parece (a terrific "Cuando Yo Lo Quiera") but there's also new material, including an insanely hip arrangement of Sean Paul's "Get Busy" complete with an unexpectedly perfect Queen quote; Chucho Valdés appears on his composition "Sin Clave Pero Con Swing."
Given the occasion, the inevitable hits medley focuses inordinately on songs Piloto wrote but didn't record with Klimax: "No Me Mires En Los Ojos"; "Me Sube El Fiebre"; "Me Va Extrañar." But that's the closest I can come to a criticism...
The band throws itself into everything, fast ("Consejo A Una Amiga") or slow ("Añorado Encuentro" - by Piloto Sr. sin Vera - featuring Mayra Caridad Valdés), the sound quality is excellent, and there's enough new material that this is the rare live record that's worth seeking out whether you've never heard the band or you own every record they ever made.
Todo Está Bién (2012)
There aren't many musical grounds for criticizing Piloto, but it's sometimes said that his songs can be so advanced they're hard for a humble listener to grasp (I'm still trying to find my way into his magnum opus Oye Como Va) and there's support for that perspective here. On his first album in several years, he's all over the map:
"La Descarga" is so stuffed with off-kilter breaks and hooks it's positively disorienting and perhaps too much of a good thing.
He covers Piloto y Vera's "Hay Que Recordar" (adding distinctly untraditional electric guitar); he puts together a medley of Michel Legrand movie themes (with Alexander Abreu on trumpet).
Hardest for me to understand is the (admittedly enjoyable) cover of Michael Jackson's "Black Or White,"
though I still haven't figured out why Caetano Veloso covered the same tune so I'm probably not the sharpest tool in the shed.
When he sticks to the tried and true Piloto can still produce magnificent results, as on the tres-driven title track and "Que Sería De Mi,"
and his less successful stretches are intriguing, but many of his other albums are more solidly satisfying.
An EP, focused on the dance floor, without any of the arranging experiments Piloto's full-lengths are prone to. So depending on your perspective it's less intriguing or less frustrating than his other work, but either way, songs like the midtempo, funky "La Ternita" and "Si Te Descuidas" are a joy. Most of the lead vocals on "Todo Te Lo Doy" are Auto-Tuned - since that fad had blown over well before the disc's release, I don't think Piloto was trying to ride a bandwagon; maybe he just shares the Princely compulsion to try every arranging or production trick at least once.
Mis 21 Años (2016)
Klimax has featured many guests on past albums, but at this anniversary party they take that to the extreme, with a guest singer on every track. Unlike the Santana Superstar model, however, in this case every cut has Piloto's stamp all over it, from the kitsch quotes ("Mi Amor Es Un Partido De Futbol" with Paulo FG) to the risque subject matter ("Mi Ventana" with Alexander Abreu) to the masterful tension-building arrangements ("El 443025" with Mandy).
With all that's going on, it's inevitable that some of the talent would be underused (Tania Pantoja on "Que Me Vas A Hacer") - when that's the worst thing you can say about a record you're in pretty good shape.
There's one remake ("Un Juego De Manos" with Carlos Calunga); "Añorado Encuentro" is the tribute to Piloto Sr. (DBW)
Mira si te gusta.