Apr 6, 2011
When I caught up with Al DiMeola last summer at the Freihofer’s Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York, he was all smiles when talking about his newest recording with the World Sinfonia. The legendary guitarist had spent much of the previous year touring with Return to Forever, playing his trademark fusion licks at rock hall levels. He was more than content to be playing with a softer, gentler group with a richer, more subtle sound.
The resulting CD, Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody, is a gem. DiMeola gets his share of lightning-fast runs on electric and acoustic guitars, but more importantly, he has a large band that supplies a depth and texture that can be missing from his smaller ensembles. Accordionist Fausto Beccalossi, second guitarist Kevin Seddiki, and DiMeola’s longtime collaborator Gumbi Ortiz on cajon and assorted hand percussion, are on hand along with a few guest star turns, playing music that is thick with romance and old world ambience. Whether it’s the lilt of “Paramour’s Lullaby”, the guitar-accordion duel of “Full Frontal Contrapuntal”, or the flamenco-kissed “Fireflies”, this is an album to savor.
Not the entire album is so esoteric in sound. Fusion veteran Peter Erskine (Weather Report) checks in for the electric title track, and Charlie Haden provides subtle and contemplative bass to tasty, virtuosic covers of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.
One of the tunes he played from the stage in Saratoga was “Michelangelo’s 7th Child”, a reference not to the Renaissance painter but DiMeola’s father, whose father, Michelangelo, raised a large family. Click here to listen to the track, which features the Sturcz String Quartet backing DiMeola and Beccalossi, as the guitarist provides some of his finest fret workouts on the album.