Guitarist/composer Al Di Meola explores his heritage musically and otherwise in the near hour-long Opus. Largely a solo project, the music becomes all the more compelling for an intricacy mirrored in the deceptively ornate cover art.
The intimacy arising from the very first tones of "Milonga Noctiva (Wandering in the Dark)" eventually alternates overdubs of acoustic and electric guitars with orchestral punctuation. As flamenco flourishes introduce the sounds of classically-tinged piano, the musicianship conjures an air of formality that is a direct reflection of Di Meola's personality, yet the prominence of percussion here supplies a heat that compensates for what might be construed as an overly cerebral approach. The sharp edges of fiery electric guitar lines serve the same purpose on "Broken Heart."
"Ava's Dream Sequence Lullaby" presents a tangible sense of a band playing rather than a single individual and that effect, not surprisingly, is even more readily discernible on "Cerreto Sannita," one of the two cuts featuring keyboardist Kemuel Roig, as well as drummer Richie Morales. True to its title, "Escapado" bounces along with an effervescent joy, while "Pomp" evinces a more sinuous approach, adding to the cumulative momentum of Opus, even as it provides a necessary change of pace.
There is some sense Al Di Meola is repeating himself to a certain extent on this record, but that is his intent, at least in part, so the concept imbues his prodigious technique with a purpose. The hint of steel drums on "Insieme" also offsets the impression of overly familiar territory: the combination of rhythm and melody freshens an indirect but nonetheless palpable evocation of the classic Elegant Gypsy (Columbia, 1977). "Rebels" continues in that vein, again with the formidable participation of Roig and Morales, so that Opus ends on an affirmative note echoing long after the authoritative conclusion.
Milonga Noctiva: Wandering in the Dark; Broken Heart; Ava’s Dream Sequence Lullaby; Cerreto Sannita; Notorious; Frozen In Time; Escapado; Pomp; Left Unsaid; Insieme; Rebels.
Al Di Meola: acoustic and electric guitars, electric bass, drums, percussion, additional orchestration; Richie Morales: drums; Kemuel Roig: piano, keyboards; orchestration: Dario Eskenazi: orchestration.
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