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Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody

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Album Review

Al Di Meola has enjoyed an impressively long career as a recording artist. The guitar virtuoso was only 22 when he recorded his first album as a leader, Land of the Midnight Sun, back in 1976 (although he had joined Chick Corea's Return to Forever at 19), and a 56-year-old Di Meola was still going strong when 2011 arrived. Di Meola's playing has evolved along the way; the shredding, intensity, speed, and pyrotechnics of his early albums were replaced by a more lyrical and introspective approach that shows some awareness of Pat Metheny yet is distinctively Al Di Meola. But one thing about the guitarist that hasn't changed is his affection for world music, which was a major influence on early albums such as Land of the Midnight Sun, Elegant Gypsy, and Casino, and is also a strong influence on his 2011 release Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody. This excellent album is jazz-rock fusion, but it is also world jazz; Di Meola maintains a decidedly international perspective throughout the CD, incorporating everything from Argentinian tango to Spanish flamenco to Middle Eastern and North African music. Afro-Cuban salsa is also part of the equation, and two of Di Meola's guests are people with definite Latin credentials: bassist Charlie Haden (let's not forget Haden's Revolution Music Orchestra of the '60s and '70s, or the boleros he played on 2000's Nocturne), and Havana-born pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. The Afro-Cuban influence is especially strong on "Gumbiero" and "Destination: Gonzalo," although "Gumbiero" also incorporates flamenco and tango elements. Most of the material on Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody was composed by Di Meola himself, but two exceptions are the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields" and Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow." And Di Meola, behaving like the jazz improviser that he is, genuinely interprets those well-known popular songs and brings something personal to the table instead of playing the type of lame, note-for-note covers that smooth jazz (which Di Meola has adamantly stayed away from) is infamous for. Granted, Di Meola is by no means a jazz purist or a straight-ahead bebopper; he never claimed to be Barney Kessel or Tal Farlow, but his mentality is very much an improviser's mentality, and that mentality serves him consistently well on Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody.

Customer Reviews

Mind-blowing new material; worth every penny!

Yes, this album has a very heavy flamenco influence, and no, it's not like the old Return to Forever material, and the result is some of the most compositional genius I've ever heard. I love every stage of di Meola's career, from the shredding Elegant Gypsy to the Guitar Trio to the World Sinfonia. I very much urge old di Meola fans to give his newer material a chance. It really shows his stellar compositional abilities and ability to make incredible music no matter what the instrumentation. This album in particular is like a slightly more rocked-up Grande Passion, which old fans should like, but is definitely World Sinfonia driven, which anyone who can appreciate real art can really get into. In my opinion, The Grande Passion is a slightly "better" album (most beautiful and entrancing music I've ever listened to), but it lacks the umph that this album has. Both albums are definitely 5 star records.

In conclusion: please give this music a chance. di Meola is a REAL master. His musical genius doesn't stop at incredibly fast electrical shredding. It goes way beyond that into a gorgeous realm of flamenco driven world music where you can really hear his compositional side shine. This album is a di Meola gem; worth every penny.

Pursuit of radical raphsody!!

This long expected album from the Master, follows the line of the prior World Sinfonia albums, excepcional performance and sound. My expectations were different, maybe misled by my interpretation of the album title; but the musicality and team work developed here proves once again who Al Dimeola is in the music world.

World Music

A wonderful take on world music. Fascinating and beautiful music.


Born: July 22, 1954 in Jersey City, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Guitarist Al Di Meola first rose to prominence as a blazing jazz fusion player before his playing matured and he began to conquer other styles, such as acoustic Latin music. Born on July 22, 1954, in Jersey City, NJ, Di Meola briefly studied at the Berklee School of Music in Boston during the early '70s before accepting a job replacing guitarist Bill Connors in fusion trailblazers Return to Forever (a group that included such monster instrumentalists as keyboardist Chick Corea and bassist Stanley...
Full Bio
Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody, Al Di Meola
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