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★☆☆☆☆

“It really doesn't sound like Al di Meola has moved on...”

Written on: 29/08/2006 by jfderry (208 reviews written)

It really doesn't sound like Al di Meola has moved on much.



Every time a beautiful melody comes along Al seems compelled to chop it up with some axe shredding.



The heavy rock, overdriven chorus on his electric guitar, used here to distraction, is completely at odds with the sensual warmth being mustered by his quality sidemen. The rhythm section of Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Ernie Adams, Gumbi Ortiz and Anthony Jackson try hard to hold it all together, but SPLAT, here comes Al like a slap in the stomach with a wet kipper. When he plays like that, his tone seems so oppressive that little room is left for anyone else. Gonzalo Rubalcaba is relegated into the background, and this is the pianist that John McLaughlin rated as "the greatest thing to come out" on the piano in the last 10 years. "... you listen to Gonzalo Rubalcaba's fusion records and they're killing. He's a monster. In fact there's one track we recorded together live. I wanted to put it on The Promise and I didn't have time. It was a meeting, the first time we ever played together. It's unbelievable what he's doing." (Jazz Journal Magazine, November 1996). Even the usually sparkling Anthony Jackson seems subdued.



That's not to say that Al doesn't play well. In places his playing carries a gorgeous limpid beauty, typically whilst playing an acoustic guitar appropriate to the composition and sensitive to the arrangement. Even Alejandros Santos' flute is given space to breathe. The compositions are unflustered and the music is moving. That is before the innevitable arrival of the axe grinder and the only movement is in the listener's bowels.



Apart from Al's shredding, there are many fine passages of exemplary acoustic and electric guitar wizardry. The album is finely crafted. Precision playing and articulate phrasing are indeed to the fore.



A surprising high point is the reworking of Chick Corea's Se or Mouse. Di Meola has done this composition credit previously on 1978's Casino. This rendition is less imaginative and clumsy but that could be explained in the cover notes where he personally describes it as "jam-like", and that would account for the lack of direction. However, it is an intelligent reworking and consistent with the lighter, relaxed theme running throughtout the rest of the album.



Nice cover, shame about the ...