Contemporary Jazz

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Hot Pursuit

15 MAR 11 JONATHAN WIDRAN

To use the title of Al Di Meola's latest Telarc recording, the guitar legend has been in eclectic Pursuit Of Radical Rhapsody since he joined Chick Corea's classic outfit Return To Forever in 1974. While building his prolific solo career, he's taken fascinating collaborative excursions with other greats whose output defined those halcyon days in jazz fusion: Stanley Clarke, Jan Hammer, Jean-Luc Ponty, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia.

In the 90s, he forayed colorfully into world jazz with a series of tango-rich World Sinfonia recordings. Following his participation in the 2008 Return To Forever reunion tour, Di Meola started thinking globally again. On Live In Seattle And Elsewhere, he documented the 2009 tour of his latest Sinfonia lineup, featuring Fausto Beccalosi on accordion and Gumbi Ortiz, part of the World Sinfonia projects since the beginning, on cajon and assorted hand instruments.

Di Meola's new 15 track set celebrates the chemistry of that lineup in a studio setting. It's got a jazz rock fusion foundation, but at its core it's a musical frequent flier's dream, drawing inspiration once again from tango but also exploring Spanish flamenco, Middle Eastern textures, the percussive magic of North Africa and Afro-Cuban salsa fire.

Two of the Latin pieces feature the dynamic improvisational piano of Gonzalo Rubalcaba, whose unique energy is, appropriately enough, a vibrant part of the song named in his honor, "Destination Gonzalo." Di Meola complements his original excursions with easy swaying electric guitar interpretations of "Strawberry Fields" and "Over The Rainbow," both of which feature the great Charlie Haden on bass.