Canadian guitarist Johannes Linstead is a player and composer who will not fit comfortably in any genre nor is he minded to, being just as influenced by McLaughlin, DiMeola, and Vai as Sor, Tarrega, and Giuliani…heck, even Randy Rhoads and Yngwie Malmsteen! He's been warmly welcomed in New Age circles, and there's good reason for that. That he chose a path incorporating jazz, rock, fusion, and World musics reflects his desire to live the holistic life, so anyone of merit comes under study. This mindset has also included practicing Hung Gar Kung Fu, Qi Gong, and kundalini yoga (which he also teaches) as well as instituting the Divine Earth Foundation, a Humanist forum for health, spiritual, and political concerns. I don't think many will argue that his is a notable departure from what's all too often encountered in the world of art, music, and celebrity.
Linstead works from a decidedly Latinate center with pronounced dance accentuations because he's always loved the art of dance. Thus you'll encounter cumbia, tango (especially listen to Radio Argentina), merengue, salsa, and of course rhumba chockablock with Gypsy grooves, Andean echoes (Pineapple Grove), Afro-Cuban infusions, and other equatorial and European influences. When not strumming and picking mellifluous passages, he agilely skips between and over boundaries in lightning runs reminiscent of Jorge Strunz, Gary Boyle, and of course Al DiMeola, the last of whom years ago abandoned the jazz-fusion arena in which he'd firmly established as one of Earth's most impressive axehandlers, making the surprising decision to reside in World arbors, whence he still remains.
A number of accompanists from around the globe appear on Rhumba, with violinist Vasyl Popadiuk particularly impressive, but Linstead is himself multi-instrumental and provides not just six strings but also bass, keyboards, percussives, ukelele, and various whatnots. What, that's not enough? Well, he also recorded, mixed, and mastered the entire affair as well. If you favor Bireli Lagrene, Ottmar Liebert, Fareed Haque, Ciro Hurtado, Strunz & Farah, and gents of that ilk, you'll certainly dig Linstead and his highly lyrical voicings, a joyously hedonistic timbre filled with positivity, good spirits, warmth, and occasionally a bit of sly humor. Not a line goes by but that you want to smile, grin, tap your foot, or dance, maybe all of that and more besides. However, as is the case with the best New Age work, the eleven tracks here are also excellent for engaged listening; that is to say: not just slapping the CD in the player and vacuuming the parlor but actually sitting down, unfixing the frantic mind and disposition, and letting art work its magic. Turn off the TV, put the phone on mute, and give yourself a much-needed treat.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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