Eddie Palmieri - Unfinished Masterpiece (1975), 9/10

Unfinished Masterpiece is an aptly named masterwork from Palmieri, exemplifying the strengths of well crafted salsa dura and descarga. Bookended by the enjoyable, but more traditional The Sun of Latin Music and The Music Man, this is certainly his best work and I honestly can't say enough about the genius contained in this record as a danceable, yet consistently surprising set of songs. It's so beautifully unpredictable and combines many unique musical stylings; the record is certainly ahead of its time for an original 1975 release considering its manipulation and fluidity between salsa, classical and jazz fusion. The individual performances are stunning and all are masterfully executed, of course Palmieri stands out, but the percussionists along with Rodríguez’s vocals are impressive and noteworthy. "Kinkamache"'s satisfying chorus, followed by the jammy, descarga influenced "Oyelo Que Te Conviene" illustrates the dichotomy of sounds and pacing perfectly. The performance from Eddie on "Random Thoughts" is especially beautiful and dense, showcasing his improvisational talents. All of these tracks are beautiful and epic, you can't go wrong starting anywhere on the record. While you should expect a Latin jazz atmosphere, there is a wonderful combination of several different genre stylings/manipulation, composition techniques and impressive individual performances from beginning to end, so the record should be enjoyable for any music lover. Palmieri borrows significantly from descarga’s roots in improvisation but infuses an advanced, uncharacteristic maturity in composition that separates this album from the majority. He had over a decade of trial and error to reach this leg of his career, working out the kinks on earlier albums such as Superimposition and Sentido as well as the earlier mentioned but less ambitious The Sun of Latin Music that won him the first Grammy for best Latin recording. Once he started infusing afro-cuban jazz into his recordings, his compositions and arrangement saw a significant increase in complexity, but he became completely unhinged on Unfinished Masterpiece in his improvisation in a supremely rewarding and thrilling sense. The later half of the record is clearly where his experimentation takes full form, breaking free from the conventions of salsa to transcend into a full blending of descarga, classical, and especially jazz sounds. The majority solo performance “Random Thoughts” is perhaps the album’s unsung hero, showcasing not only Palmieri’s raw talent as a pianist but also his compositional virtuosity in its intimate yet atmospheric emanation. The closer “Resemblance” has a swing, fusion aura that may catch you off guard but quickly entices your ear to become one of the most memorable tracks in the mix and certainly hosts some of the most impactful handful of moments, a perfect closing effort. Eddie Palmieri’s opus is certainly a true masterpiece that you can dance, sing, sway, and even discover within an unrivaled nuance.