How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Miami pianist Silvano Monasterios' Unconditional doesn't announce its qualities with musical histrionics: it's far subtler than that. This collection of eight original tunes shows craftsmanship, fine improvisation and coherence. Monasterios has constructed a compelling musical statement with an emphasis on composition and attention to detail. This is an entire album, not simply a collection of songs.
Even in places where the percussion is prominent, it is integrated with a vision that never becomes frenetic. There are passages on the album where the double team of drummer Rodolfo Zuniga and percussionist Jose Gregorio Hernandez are playing hard, with a mix of congas and kit that has the potential to be really loud. But nothing ever gets out of hand, remaining, instead, within the framework and relaxed feel of the songs.
Attention to detail adds discreet appeal to many of the compositions. "Sno' Peas" is a relaxed, mid-tempo workout. But midway through an extended piano improvisation, the drums and bass fall back under a quickened keyboard runbut only momentarilyuntil the original beat reemerges. It's a smart, subtle bit of composed drama in a place that didn't really require it, but is all the better for it. The album is full of these little touches.
Improvisation is prominent, mostly integrated within a laidback, even romantic atmosphere. But when Monasterios and company cut loose they really stick the delivery. "Forgotten Gods" features an aggressive solo, from tenor saxophonist Troy Roberts
, that begins easily enough, but eventually blows like a freight train, deep and heavy, with fast finger-work and a harder-edged bite. It's a great momentdiverging from the overall sound just enough to fulfill the musicians' need to show off a little, but without breaking the established motif.
Unconditional is an album worth hearing all the way through. It never screams for attention, but rewards it very nicely.
Track Listing: Farmacia del Angel; Monsieur Petit Noir; A Song for Jacques, Part I; A Song
for Jacques, Part II; Sno' Peas; Forgotten Gods; Unconditional; Black Saint.
Personnel: Silvano Monasterios: piano and keyboards; Troy Roberts: saxophones; Jon
Dadurka: bass; Gabriel Vivas: bass (5, 7); Rodolfo Zuniga: drums; Jose Gregorio Hernandez: percussion.