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Al Di Meola and World Sinfonia: The Grande Passion

Todd S. Jenkins By

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Another luxuriant, sensual and romantic project by a master of the acoustic guitar. Di Meola has worked the “World Sinfonia” concept several times, and it seems to have reached a new peak with The Grande Passion. This disc is on a par with Oregon’s recent orchestral project, Oregon In Moscow , and may well surpass it for sheer splendor. The guitarist weaves arousing tapestries that fuse jazz, world and classical musics seamlessly, all annealed by his skittering, flamenco-inspired lines.

Concentrating on the richness of these selections, one gets the impression that Di Meola is fully in love with the world and all it has to offer. Middle Eastern and Latin percussionists collaborate and bear sweet fruit; austere strings and piano plunge into gypsy fire and emerge anew like the phoenix, vibrantly reborn. It’s difficult to select a high point on this disc, as the compositions are of a piece and all captivating. “Misterio” appropriately sets the pace with its intimations of Baroque austerity, Indian drones, Spanish languidity and modern orchestral punch under one umbrella. The remaining pieces continue in such exotic veins, grounded in classicism but seasoned with the flavors of many continents.

Three works by Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla are presented with reverence. “Double Concerto” for guitar, piano, percussion and orchestra is a study in complement and contrast as Di Meola’s stuttering figures mesh with Mario Parmisano’s piano and then spin off into their own dance. Di Meola’s “Asia de Cuba” cleverly unites Asian and Latin elements, while “Azucar” is all fragile, lacy prettiness. Rarely New-Age-y as many classical/world fusions tend to be, Di Meola’s fresh, uplifting vision elevates The Grande Passion toward the realm of High Art.

Track Listing: Misterio; Double Concerto; Prelude: Adagio For Theresa; The Grande Passion; Asia de Cuba; Soledad; Opus in Green; Libertango; Azucar.

Personnel: Al Di Meola, guitars, acoustic bass guitar, percussion and cymbals; Mario Parmisano, piano; John Patitucci, acoustic bass guitar; Arto Tuncboyacian, vocal and percussion; Hernan Romero, guitar, charango and vocal; Gilad, percussion; Gumbi Ortiz, congas; Mike Mossman, trumpet; Oscar Feldman, tenor sax; members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Title: The Grande Passion | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Telarc Records

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