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Al Di Meola: Elysium

The fusion guitar legend goes to his happy place…

Wherever Elysium is, it’s a long way from where Al Di Meola started in the fusion supergroup Return To Forever, four decades ago.

While the guitarist was initially famed for his dazzling technique and remarkable speed, he turned his back on the electric guitar during the 90s, switching to acoustic music, only to reintroduce it in the new millennium. Where his contemporaries John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell embraced the role of the jazz-rock shredder, fond of letting rip with rapid-fire bursts, Di Meola’s explorations of Latin and Spanish styles have taken him down a very different path. Elysium casts a wide net from the Flamenco flourishes of Babylon and the gorgeous Stephanie to the Arabic and African beats that underpin Monsters and the infectious Amanjena.

Di Meola plays most of the music himself but pianist Philippe Saisse lends a wonderful solo to Cascade and Rhani Krija adds colour and creativity on percussion. Di Meola has lost none of his prodigious speed – his runs in Adour and Babylon are extraordinary – but the attention to tone, rhythm and melody elevates this beyond mere pyrotechnics. Elysium is a land of Iberian sunshine, unfettered creativity and joy.

After starting his writing career covering the unforgiving world of MMA, David moved into music journalism at Rhythm magazine, interviewing legends of the drum kit including Ginger Baker and Neil Peart. A regular contributor to Prog, he’s written for Metal Hammer, The Blues, Country Music Magazine and more. The author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction To The Martial Arts Film, David shares his thoughts on kung fu movies in essays and videos for 88 Films, Arrow Films, and Eureka Entertainment. He firmly believes Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years is the tuniest tune ever tuned.