Al Di Meola is one of those jazz musicianslike, say, Chick Coreawhose interests are so broad that he can't be categorized. The agreement about Di Meola lies in his mastery of the instrument, a subject over which there is little debate.
After unpredictably releasing a 1999 Christmas album strangely enough in conjunction with Ukrainian bandura player, Roman Hrynkiv, Di Meola once again indulges his passion for what is truly world music on The Grande Passion. This time, Di Meola has established his "World Sinfonia," which consists of top-level musicians from South American and Israel. Adding to the richness of five of the tracks is a 27-piece orchestra selected from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
The Grande Passion starts inauspiciously with a "Scarborough Fair" flavor on Di Meola's composition, "Misterio," the strings flowing incurrents and Arto Tuncboyacian singing the melody wordlessly. Even though the tune ventures into unexpected modulations, the soundscape textures of the tune comprises a set-up for the more adventurous work to follow.
Di Meola's "The Grande Passion" highlights his interest in Latin rhythms, and more specifically Argentinean, as the long crescendo puts the orchestra to more effective use and as the percussionists lead the listener into the tango's lunge and pulsations. "The Grande Passion" is Di Meola's reference to the primary influence upon his passion in the Latin music: the incomparable Argentiean musician Astor Piazzolla.
In deference to Piazzolla, who has inspired the divergent interests of the likes of Gary Burton, Mark Murphy and Steve Swallow, Di Meola includes three of Piazzolla's compositions on the album, perhaps the most famous of which being "Libertango" (coincidentally the name of Burton's most recent CD). As Di Meola notes, Piazzolla wasn't as interested in musicians' faithful re-creation of his music as in the interpretion of it. Di Meola does the interpretation without the bandoneon but with guitar, piano and an abundance of percussion.
Di Meola's composition, "Asia de Cuba," is one of his most invigorating and challenging as he not only attempts to unify cultures, but also writes the tune as a suite consisting of several separate but joined movements.
The Grande Passion effectively presents Di Meola's humane and technically impressive approach to combining various musics of the world under one theoretical umbrella that affects the common emotions of human beings, no matter where they live.
Track Listing: Misterio; Double Concerto; Prelude: Adagio For Theresa; The Grande Passion; Asia de Cuba; Soledad; Opus In Green; Libertango; Azacar
Personnel: Al Di Meola, acoustic guitars, percussion; Oscar Feldman, tenor sax; Mike Mossman, trumpet; Mario Parmisano, acoustic piano; Hernan Romero, acoustic guitars, charango, vocal; John Patitucci, acoustic bass; Gilad, percussion; Arto Tuncboyacian, voice, percussion; Gumbi Ortiz, congas; Fabrizio Festa, conductor of musicians from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra