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.