World & Latin

Passion On A Grand Scale

25 JUL 08 JOHN C. BRUENING

Al Di Meola's The Grande Passion, released on Telarc in 2000, grafts the music of South America and other musical and cultural sources to the revered guitarist's own brand of progressive jazz. The result is an atmospheric, compelling and at times even mystical recording.

Aided by the 2000 edition of his World Sinfonia -- a world renowned crew that includes pianist Mario Parmisano, bassist John Pattitucci, guitarist/vocalist Hernan Romero and percussionists Arto Tuncboyacin, Gilad and Gumbi Ortiz -- Di Meola deftly weaves Latin, European and Middle Eastern threads into a tapestry that's virtually seamless and ultimately satisfying.

The 9-track set includes six Di Meola originals and three compositions by Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla ("Double Concerto," "Soledad" and "Libertango"). Di Meola's friendship with Piazzolla before his death had a profound effect on the guitarist and his approach to music from beyond his native borders. The relationship ultimately deepened Di Meola's ties to the music of South America.

From the seductive "Misterio" at the start of the set, to the hypnotic title track further in, The Grande Passion is all about atmosphere -- thanks in no small part to the combined efforts of the aforementioned percussionists. Piazzolla's "Soledad" is a gentle and understated piece, while the guitar-driven "Libertango" is much more taut and energized. "Azucar," the closer, is a stripped down affair spotlighting Di Meola and Tuncboyacin, each of whom toggle back and forth between melody and rhythm with seemingly no effort and limitless grace.

The Grande Passion reaches into remote places and creates an emotionally charged musical experience.