Although Miami attracts an abundance of Latino musicians and has long had a huge Latin music scene, the South Florida city is hardly the first place one thinks of upon hearing the phrase "Latin jazz." Miami, for all its salsa/Afro-Cuban and Latin pop action, has never been identified with Latin jazz the way that New York City and San Francisco have. But Miami does, in fact, have some Latino musicians who play jazz, and one of them is Venezuela native Silvano Monasterios. Unconditional is not Latin jazz in the familiar Tito Puente/Poncho Sanchez/Mongo Santamaria sense; acoustic pianist/electric keyboardist Monasterios isn't taking hard bop standards by Sonny Rollins or Clifford Brown and adding Afro-Cuban rhythms. Rather, Unconditional is a post-bop album that sometimes hints at Venezuelan rhythms, but Monasterios (who is joined by saxman Troy Roberts, bassist Jon Dadurka, drummer Rodolfo Zuñiga, and percussionist José Gregorio Hernández) incorporates them in such a subtle fashion that listeners may not think of this 2010 recording as especially Latin-flavored. Listening to "Farmacia del Angel," "Forgotten Gods," and other Monasterios originals, one can easily hear the influence of Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, and Keith Jarrett; the influences jump right out at the listener. But the South American element is so understated that one has to be listening closely and attentively in order to notice it; nonetheless, it's there. Unconditional is, for the most part, an acoustic recording. The acoustic piano is Monasterios' main instrument on this 46-minute CD, and he pretty much keeps things straight-ahead. However, the venezolano does play electric keyboards on the mildly funky "Black Saint," which might frustrate post-bop purists, but is nonetheless an enjoyable demonstration of what he has to offer on that instrument. If anything, Monasterios should play electric keyboards more often. But the acoustic piano definitely serves him well on the pleasing Unconditional.
by Alex Henderson