Elegant Gypsy ~ Elysium

Al Di Meola

Some artists have a place set aside for them in these pages just because they have earned it. Al Di Meola is one of them. As fate would have it, just when my body and soul were crying out to listen to Elegant Gypsy, maybe due to a side-effect of this heat wave, and I was of a mind to writing a few lines about it, I saw that his new album, Elysium, the thirty-somethingth recorded by this maestro from New Jersey, has recently been released. Here was the perfect opportunity then for me to kill two birds with one stone.  

From 1977 to 2015. His second record consecrated him as one of the best there was with a guitar in his hands, and not just in his jazz/rock fusion kingdom where in all probability most of his disciples reside. An example of his eclectic abilities is the Metallica cover he recorded not long ago with the heavy metal cellist Tina Guo. So good that he comes close to beating Kirk Hammet at his own game.  

In Elegant Gypsy, it was his collaboration with Paco de Lucía in the memorable track, Mediterranean Sundance that made the record, which was already quite brilliant, something magical. For Di Meola, it was his artistic confirmation, his coming of age, led by the hand of that late, great guitar legend, following a brilliant apprenticeship with Chick Corea and Stanley Clark.

Forty years later with the recording of his latest material, it is now clear that the charm of that 'gypsy' was its precision, the eagerness of a young instrumentalist whose desire to demonstrate perfect technical proficiency on his Gibson was just as important as writing a good song. And he managed both – Elegant Gypsy fights for first place in the shred guitars hall of fame even among the gods of heavy metal.

Inevitably, Elysium is a the work of a much more mature artist, a man now in his sixties - but still determined to bring out the very best of the various acoustic and electric guitars used in the recordings, seeking out all the sounds possible while still keeping true to his musical roots, those rhythms with a hint of piña colada to them. Di Meola at his purest, perhaps thanks to his girlfriend Stephanie, in an album that brings together 40 years in which his name has always been linked to the most elegant guitar to be found on any stage. With this latest offering, Di Meola is well on his way to earning himself a place in his own Elysium.