Talk about ambitious. This two-LP set finds guitarist Al di Meola performing with his quintet of the time (featuring keyboardist Philippe Saisse), with studio musicians, solo, in a reunion with pianist Chick Corea, singing a love song, and welcoming veteran Les Paul for a version of "Spanish Eyes." Most of the music works quite well and it shows that di Meola (best-known for his speedy rock-oriented solos) is a surprisingly well-rounded and versatile musician.
Fusion firebrand Al Di Meola continues his passion of the 1990s, compositions written and inspired by Astor Piazzolla. With the virtuosity of his playing, Di Meola is often overlooked as a composer, and The Grande Passion underscores what a fine composer he is. String arrangements color "Double Concerto," the title track, and several other pieces, but Di Meola hardly needs orchestral frills to legitimize his already epic compositions. The guitarist has slipped from critical prominence since the days of Return to Forever, Splendido Hotel, but Di Meola spent the 1990s doing some of his best work with his World Sinfonia group and The Grande Passion starts the new millennium in fine form.
With a curriculum vitae rich of exciting musical moments and incredible works, Al Di Meola is still challenging himself and his music but with a more relaxed way to see things. Over the last few years he has literally started all over, reinventing himself in both, his private life and music, and his brand new studio album "OPUS" truly reflects all of this. 'With "OPUS" I wanted to further my compositional skills as I think that the evolution of this part of my persona has labeled me more composer/guitarist than guitarist/composer', says Al. 'At the same time this record also marks a new era in my life. For the first time in my life, I have written music being happy, I'm in a wonderful relationship with my wife, I have a baby girl and a beautiful family that inspires me every day. I believe it shows in the music.' Available on CD, 180 gram Vinyl and Digital.
A high point of the Moroccan music festival is without doubt the Mawazine Festival in Rabat, Morocco. Al Di Meola’s fantastic appearance in 2009 also represented a summit of different cultures and religions – Al Di Meola (guitar), Peo Alfonsi (2nd guitar), Fausto Beccalossi (accordion), Gumbi Ortiz (percussion), Victor Miranda (bass), Peter Kaszas (drums), and with special guests from Morocco, Said Chraibi (oud), Abdellah Meri (violin) and Tarik Ben Ali (percussion). On his third trip to Morocco, the public gave this exceptional guitarist a rousing reception and showed ist openness towards Western music – and Al Di Meola wowed the audience with a special repertoire.
If you're an air guitarist, Al di Meola has likely been your man since his days as an unknown 21-year-old addition to Chick Corea's Return to Forever in the mid-'70s. Over the years since leaving RTF, he has been afforded the opportunity to record regularly, and this CD represents a good overview of his discography, primarily for the Columbia family of labels. His early dates Land of the Midnight Sun, Elegant Gypsy, and Casino are well represented, in addition to his collaborations with Jan Hammer on Tour de Force: Live. His middle-period efforts are not all that vital, as repeat ideas and predictable flash lost their original value even to the staunchest fans, therefore making this collection less than essential.
Two years after they recorded Friday Night in San Francisco, John McLaughlin, Al di Meola and Paco de Lucía reunited for another set of acoustic guitar trios, Passion, Grace and Fire, If this can be considered a guitar "battle" (some of the playing is ferocious and these speed demons do not let up too often), then the result is a three-way tie…