Al Di Meola World Sinfonia: Live From Seattle and Elsewhere

Now that the whole Return to Forever reunion experience is in his rearview mirror (and unlikely to be repeated ever again), guitar star Al Di Meola is pursuing his own musical vision with newfound conviction via his World Sinfonia. Essentially an acoustic ensemble featuring Fausto Beccalossi on accordion and Di Meola’s longtime collaborator Gumbi Ortiz on cajon and assorted hand percussion, along with second guitarist Peo Alfonsi, bassist Victor Miranda and drummer Peter Kaszas, this edition of the World Sinfonia has developed a tightly knit chemistry through frequent touring. This limited-edition release, the first in a series of live recordings being sold initially at World Sinfonia gigs, documents their easy rapport in concerts held in Seattle, San Francisco and Istanbul.

Di Meola’s rhythmically charged, flamenco- and tango-inspired originals, like the opening “Misterio” and the dynamic “Siberiana,” reveal his interest in advanced harmony along with his unapologetic embrace of simple, beautiful melodies. And although a romantic at heart, he is not above layering on the kind of impressive speed-demon licks that graced ’70s Di Meola classics like Elegant Gypsy and Casino, as he demonstrates with typical macho flair on the Latin-flavored cooker “Gumbiero” and the alternately alluring and exhilarating “Umbras.” Accordion ace Beccalossi proves more than a worthy foil on the frontline for this challenging material, matching Di Meola’s intricate lines note for note on the heads while delivering some scintillating solos of his own.

The virtuoso guitarist plays primarily on a nylon-string acoustic with a MIDI pickup that allows him to shadow notes with a wide array of synth colors and textures, or dial up some nasty distortion tones when the music calls for it (as on the moody “Paramour’s Lullaby” and the flamenco burner “Fireflies”). Special guest Husnu Şenlendirici sits in on Turkish clarinet on the lovely Sardinian folk tune “No Potho Reposare.”