Al Di Meola: Consequence of Chaos (Telarc)

aldimeolaFifty-two-year-old virtuoso guitarist Di Meola is firmly ensconced in the pantheon of the greats. The unavoidable accompanying hype can, of course, get a bit thick. His assertion that Larry Coryell (a profound inspiration to Di Meola) is the ultimate “godfather” of fusion is debatable: the seminal Jerry Hahn and, perhaps most worthy of the accolade, John Abercrombie, are two that come to mind in sharing responsibility with Coryell. And then there’s John McLaughlin. Influences and opinions aside, Di Meola ascended to lofty pinnacles of success and acclaim via a formidable body of work.

Fusion’s heady entry into the commercially viable arena came via 1969’s Bitches Brew. Miles’ groundbreaking ensemble (including keyboardist Chick Corea) altered the course of contemporary music and spawned numerous spin-off groups; young players everywhere took notice. By ’72, Corea was fronting the popular Return to Forever group, making accessible yet challenging fusion. When young jazz-rock guitar chop-monster Bill Connors quit in pursuit of more personally rewarding music making, nineteen-year-old Di Meola got his first big break, hiring on as Connors’s replacement in 1974. Two years later, the unstoppably talented Di Meola embarked upon a solo career. In subsequent decades, the guitarist has blazed a uniquely brilliant trail with his uncanny technical skill, often infusing his music with Mediterranean and Latin colorings.

Consequence of Chaos is suffused with passionate, graceful compositions. The arrangements are infectious, and could instigate the listener to hit the repeat button, literally looping the set without boredom setting in. Supported by a stellar group of players including Chick Corea, Steve Gadd, and John Patitucci along with a host of exotic percussion, the music flows beautifully. Flamenco acoustic guitar washes through “Turquoise,” a gentle piece of magic Di Meola suggests “embodies the essence of my future writing direction.” “Odyssey,” a 56-second sonic bridge of guitars, percussion, and keyboard programming, yields to “Tao,” one of the tunes where the guitarist reunites with his love of solid-body electric playing. Weaving with Barry Miles’s piano, the piece involves flights of acoustic guitar, poignant electric soloing, subtle synth, and rhythm section thunder. Corea solos elegantly on the Latin groove “Red Moon” and also on the delicate duet with Di Meola, “Cry for You.” The entire set is nicely bookended by “San Marco (moderna)” at the beginning and “San Marco (vecchio),” a more traditional rendering, at the conclusion.

Di Meola composed all of the hour-plus’s selections. As a player, he’s evolved from a young, gifted, blindingly fast shredmeister to a matured introspective artist with plenty left to say and do. - Tali Madden

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Mr. Madden escaped New York a few decades ago, and still misses his egg creams. Aside from a brief flirtation with the Desert Southwest, he's been damply ensconced for half his life in Portland, Oregon. The freelance writer has written extensively on blues and jazz for outlets including the late Blues Access magazine, contributed to the MusicHound Blues and Jazz album guides, and produced and programmed jazz broadcasts for public radio.


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