Al Di Meola World Sinfonia '09
plus Celso Machado

Date and Venue 29 June 2009 @ 7.30pm | The Centre

Reviewer John Jane

In terms of technical virtuosity and lightening dexterity, Al Di Meola has few, if any equals. His musicianship and compositions have seen him evolve through numerous genres of jazz and new age. So, when I heard that he was bringing his World Sinfonia to Vancouver for the International Jazz Festival, I determined that this would be a “must-see” event.

I was hoping to hear music from his recent live album, La Melodia, and perhaps even ‘Elegant Gypsy.’ Di Meola and his band did play a couple of well-known tunes and a few not-so-well-known tunes, but mostly they played music that only those performing on stage knew.

World Sinfonia 09 consists of Fausto Beccalossi on accordion, Gumbi Ortiz and Peter Kaszas on percussion and Victor Miranda on bass. Playing in his distinctive slashing style, Di Meola led this talented ensemble straight into the driving Misterio, a tune he wrote for his collaboration with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Next, a new tune, the evocative Siberiana which Di Meola admitted is still a work in progress. Beccalossi’s layered harmonies combined with the guitarist’s dazzling chord changes drew images of Siberia’s frozen tundra.

The much more carefree Michaelangelo’s 7th Child featured only guitar, bass and accordion. But percussionists Gumbi Ortiz and Peter Kaszas soon had their turn in the spotlight with the exciting Gumbiero. Di Meola wrote the tune to acknowledge his long term association with his side drummer.

The New Jersey native left the best (in my opinion) for the encore. The Spanish flamenco flavoured Mediterranean Sundance was originally performed on the live album ’Friday Night in San Francisco’ with John McLaughlin (whose nephew and protégé Tony Grey performed with Hiromi’s Sonicboom earlier in the festival). Ortiz’s conga drums and Beccalossi’s accordion bought a fresh dynamic that even bettered the original. The result - a dazzling interpretive display.

Al Di Meola demonstrated that he is a master guitarist committed to the highest level of artistry.

Earlier, affable local multi-instrumentalist, Celso Machado compensated for the over-used air conditioning to warm the audience into a festival mood with the effulgent sounds of his Brazilian guitar. Machado, who now makes his home on the Sunshine Coast, charmed an exuberant crowd with cheerful guitar solos like Parazula.

His laid-back interpretation of Manhã de Carnaval, a Bossa Nova tune by Brazilian composers, Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Maria, was particularly pleasing. The song is probably better known to North Americans as “A day in the life of a fool” made popular by Frank Sinatra. The Brazilian born musician is renowned for his unique ability to use his voice to create vocal percussion; he ended his set with an affecting simulation of a jungle rain storm – complete with the thunder.

© 2009 John Jane