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Al Di Meola - Opus album review

Now a happy man, the guitarist continues to stretch himself

Al Di Meola - Opus album artwork

He was Return To Forever’s diffident firebrand, the fusion genius behind Elegant Gypsy, and he shared a stage with fellow guitar giants Paco de Lucía and John McLaughlin. But follow the trajectory of Al Di Meola’s four-decade solo career and you’ll see him emerge as a musical globalista with a love for Piazzolla’s nuevo tango and an appreciation of Latin-based styles. He says that Opus marks the first time he’s ever written while happy, but that hasn’t turned his brain to saccharine mush – this sparely produced, mainly acoustic album is no sugar-fest. The tango-inspired Escapado and gelid Frozen In Time are the most immediate tunes, but 10-minute suite Ava’s Dream Sequence Lullaby is capricious and requires concentration. A musical conversation with himself, Left Unsaid is a skilled expression of his new‑found contentment, while the jazzy, contrapuntal harmonies of Insieme are dazzlingly complicated. A few weak string and drum samples disrupt the flow, but pianist Kemuel Roig adds class to Rebels and Milonga Noctiva, and it’s a thrill to follow an explorer reaching new creative peaks, even if the air’s pretty thin up here for the rest of us.

Grant Moon is the News Editor for Prog and has been a contributor to the magazine since its launch in 2009. A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book – a biography of the UK prog band Big Big Train –  will be published later this year.