Generally speaking, guitar wizard Al Di Meola has divided his musical attentions over the years between electric and acoustic, fusion and world music directions. This time out he splits the difference with some dazzling results. Coming off his short-lived reunion with Return to Forever, Di Meola returns to the solo spotlight with Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody, a strong and varied effort that moves mostly in the acoustic direction and features some high-profile personnel, including pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and bassist Charlie Haden.
Recorded in 1972, a decade removed from the last of Horace Silver's classic quintet recordings, In Pursuit of the 27th Man has never been regarded as one of the pianist's prime releases, which likely explains why Blue Note took this long to make it available on CD. But the album, which moves gracefully between quartet performances featuring vibraphonist David Friedman and quintet numbers featuring the young Brecker brothers (Randy on trumpet and Michael on tenor saxophone), has its distinctive charms. While maintaining the crispness and sense of adventure with which he has always signed his music, Silver and bands ease through some of his most appealing melodies. Songs such as Weldon Irvine's "Liberated Brother" have the early '70s written all over them, but even in those cases their light-handed lyricism and boppish vitality keep them fresh. Friedman's idiosyncratic sound adds a sense of mystery to the music, which, with Bob Cranshaw on electric bass and Mickey Roker on drums, never lacks for a solid and soulful center.
"You Can't Blame Louis" and "Weave Your Spell" both stomp their way through catchy chorus and intelligent verse, but the 'piece de resistance' has to be the title track, an ingenious execution of the bands own roots and influences - it's Herbie Hancock in the early seventies. It's modern electric fusion pushed to the extremes of feasibility. The bass line, now a trade mark (terrible puns!) of the band, lays down a solid foundation whilst the attack of the drum kit is quite extraordinary.