Though sometimes lumped in with Carlos Santana, Latin guitarist Al Di Meola is almost his complete musical opposite. Where Carlos plays easy-going, accessible Latin rock, Di Meola delves into the dark, arcane corners of the genre – his music is more than a simple, minor-key melody over a conga groove. It’s intoxicating, compelling, and devilishly complex stuff.
As heard all over Consequence of Chaos, Di Meola elegantly mixes flamenco and Mediterranean textures with all manner of South American tangos and rumbas… all topped with his legendary electric and acoustic guitar chops. Adding to this heady fragrance is a dream team of fusion musicians, including keyboardists Chick Corea and Barry Miles, drummer Steve Gadd, and 6-string bassist John Patitucci.
If you haven’t listened to Di Meola since his Elegant Gypsy and Casino heyday in the late 1970s, however, you may be in for a surprise. The guitarist is a far more subtle and sophisticated composer these days, blending soft acoustic passages with overdriven electric lines at the drop of a hat. For lack of a better comparison, you could say that Di Meola’s recent music is more like a Latin variation on the Pat Metheny’s brand of quietly powerful fusion. Return to Forever, it’s not.
Di Meola’s influences are eclectic, too: rock, jazz, Latin, hip-hop, and more; he crosses musical boundaries at whim. “San Marco” starts with a soft-jazz groove and sultry electric melody, but soon, the guitarist brings in nylon-string licks and more electric work. The lengthy “Turquoise” features nylon-string at the forefront, as well as with piano and intricate percussion. And somehow, Di Meola keeps it from being cocktail music, which it could be in the hands of a lesser musician.
The closest to vintage high-voltage Di Meola would be “Red Moon,” which features fierce electric solos over a steady Latin groove. But for the most part, Consequence of Chaos is more about melody and the sultry, romantic South American music that has obsessed Di Meola for the past 15 years or so. While the famed guitarist may have left the casino years ago, he’s still a riveting guitarist who’s avidly exploring new textures of sound and nuance. And at the very least, here’s one fusion player who’s not pandering to “smooth jazz” radio. Bravo!
This article originally appeared in VG‘s June. ’07 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.