AL DI MEOLA

"Flesh on Flesh"

Telarc

In the liner notes accompanying "Flesh on Flesh," guitarist Al Di Meola explains that "Innamorata," one of the five original pieces featured on his new CD, encompasses "all of what I have absorbed in these last few years with the attitude and energy of my early recordings." Yet the same might be said for the album as a whole, since the performances frequently reflect Di Meola's fusion roots as well as his evolving interest in world beat themes and textures. The result is a fusion jazz album for people who don't necessarily like fusion jazz.

Brimming with colorful and complex arrangements, including pieces written by keyboardist Chick Corea, Brazilian guitarist Egberto Gismonte and the late Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla, the album traces a broad career arc. There are intermittent showers of electric guitar sparks, raining down on the album's Cuban-flavored title track, for example, or, in the case of Corea's "Sen~or Mouse," creating slippery Strat-laced funk grooves.

The electric cuts, however, are quietly eclipsed by Gismonte's haunting theme "Meninas," which finds Di Meola eloquently collaborating with pianist Mario Parmisano, bassist Anthony Jackson and flutist Alejandro Santos. The same musicians, augmented by percussionist Gumbi Ortiz, later fuel a contagiously syncopated arrangement of Piazzolla's "Fugata." Cuban keyboardist Gonzalo Rubalcaba rounds out the lineup on this tune, playing a Fender Rhodes that serves as a bright foil to Di Meola's crisp and wizardly acoustic attack.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Thursday at the Birchmere. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Al Di Meola, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8102. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)

Jazzman Al Di Meola has clearly been influenced by world beat music on his latest release.