Al Di Meola: Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody

Al Di Meola: Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody
Release Date: 2011-04-20
Genre: Recording

When the Astor Piazzolla-influenced World Sinfonia came out in 1991, one of the members of Al Di Meola’s band (who had also recorded on the album) dismissively told me that it was “muscle music.” I disagreed, but I could get his point — the album was gorgeous, but it was so filled with virtuosity that the more visceral players and listeners could have trouble finding the heart, the emotion in it. Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody is the fourth Di Meola album under the World Sinfonia concept, and it has more muscle than ever. While that first album used a real bandoneón and had a couple of original compositions by Piazzolla, the man who revolutionized tango, this one is all by Di Meola except for a fine, free version of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Jazz, flamenco, world music, and Piazzolla’s neo-tango merge in a complex feat of impeccable execution throughout, but you just can’t replace a bandoneón with an accordion, period — especially when the album’s biggest edge comes at the most Piazzolesque moments (he would’ve cut Di Meola’s balls, I suspect). But if you’re into mere “muscle,” things can’t get much better than this.