Al Di Meola

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Al Di Meola
Al Di Meola 2006 1.jpg
Al Di Meola at the Granada Theater, Dallas, Texas, December 6, 2006
Background information
Birth nameAl Laurence Di Meola
Born (1954-07-22) July 22, 1954 (age 64)
Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
Genres Jazz, jazz fusion, world music, world fusion
Years active1974–present
Labels Columbia, Telarc, Tomato
Associated acts Return to Forever, Paco de Lucía, John McLaughlin

Al Laurence Di Meola (born July 22, 1954) is an American guitarist. Known for his works in jazz fusion and world music, he began his career as a guitarist of the group Return to Forever in 1974. Between the 1970s and 1980s, albums such as Elegant Gypsy and Friday Night in San Francisco earned him both critical and commercial success. [1] [2]

Jazz fusion music genre

Jazz fusion is a musical genre that developed in the late 1960s when musicians combined jazz harmony and improvisation with rock music, funk, and rhythm and blues. Electric guitars, amplifiers, and keyboards that were popular in rock and roll started to be used by jazz musicians, particularly those who had grown up listening to rock and roll.

World music is a musical category encompassing many different styles of music from around the globe, which includes many genres including some forms of Western music represented by folk music, Jazz, as well as selected forms of ethnic music, indigenous music, neotraditional music, and music where more than one cultural tradition, such as ethnic music and Western popular music, intermingle.

Return to Forever American jazz fusion group led by Chick Corea

Return to Forever is a jazz fusion group founded and led by pianist Chick Corea. Through its existence, the band has had many members, with the only consistent bandmate of Corea's being bassist Stanley Clarke. Along with Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever is often cited as one of the core groups of the jazz-fusion movement of the 1970s. Several musicians, including Clarke, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira and Al Di Meola, first came to prominence through their performances on Return to Forever albums.


Early life

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, into an Italian family with roots in Cerreto Sannita, a small town northeast of Naples, Di Meola grew up in Bergenfield, where he attended Bergenfield High School. [3] [4] He has been a resident of Old Tappan, New Jersey. [5]

Jersey City, New Jersey City in Hudson County, New Jersey, U.S.

Jersey City is the second most populous city in the U.S. state of New Jersey, after Newark. It is the seat of Hudson County as well as the county's largest city. As of 2017, the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program calculated that Jersey City's population was 270,753, with the largest population increase of any municipality in New Jersey since 2010, an increase of about 9.4% from the 2010 United States Census, when the city's population was at 247,597. ranking the city the 75th-most-populous in the nation.

Cerreto Sannita Comune in Campania, Italy

Cerreto Sannita is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Benevento in the Italian region Campania, located about 60 km northeast of Naples and about 25 km northwest of Benevento.

Naples Comune in Campania, Italy

Naples is a major city in southern Italy. It is the capital of the Campania region, and the third-largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan. The city is called Napoli in Italian, and Napule in Neapolitan. The name comes from Ancient Greek Νεάπολις, meaning "new city", via the Latin Neapolis.

When he was eight years old, he was inspired by Elvis Presley and the Ventures to start playing guitar. His teacher directed him toward jazz standards. He cites as influences jazz guitarists George Benson and Kenny Burrell and bluegrass and country guitarists Clarence White and Doc Watson. [6]

Elvis Presley American singer and actor

Elvis Aaron Presley, commonly known as Elvis, was an American singer and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".

The Ventures band

The Ventures are an American instrumental rock band, formed in 1958 in Tacoma, Washington, by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle. The band, a quartet for most of its existence, helped to popularize the electric guitar in the United States and across the world during the 1960s. While their popularity in the United States waned in the 1970s, the group remains especially revered in Japan, where they tour regularly to this day. The classic lineup of the band consisted of Wilson, Bogle, Nokie Edwards, and Mel Taylor (drums).

George Benson American recording artist, guitarist, singer, and songwriter

George Benson is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He began his professional career at the age of 21 as a jazz guitarist. Benson uses a rest-stroke picking technique similar to that of gypsy jazz players such as Django Reinhardt.


Di Meola with Return to Forever at Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, New York, 1974 Return to Forever 1974.jpg
Di Meola with Return to Forever at Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, New York, 1974

He attended Berklee College of Music in the early 1970s. At nineteen, he was hired by Chick Corea to replace Bill Connors in the pioneering jazz fusion band Return to Forever with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. He recorded three albums with Return to Forever, helping the quartet earn its greatest commercial success as all three albums cracked the Top 40 on the U.S. Billboard pop albums chart. [1] He could play so fast, that he was sometimes criticized for playing too many notes. [7]

Berklee College of Music independent college of contemporary music in Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Berklee College of Music is a private music college in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. Known for the study of jazz and modern American music, it also offers college-level courses in a wide range of contemporary and historic styles, including rock, flamenco, hip hop, reggae, salsa, heavy metal and bluegrass. Berklee alumni have won 294 Grammy Awards, more than any other colleges, and 95 Latin Grammy Awards. Other notable accolades include 19 Emmy Awards, 5 Tony Awards and 5 Academy Awards.

Chick Corea American pianist, keyboardist, and composer

Armando Anthony "Chick" Corea is an American jazz pianist/electric keyboardist and composer. His compositions "Spain", "500 Miles High", "La Fiesta" and "Windows", are considered jazz standards. As a member of Miles Davis's band in the late 1960s, he participated in the birth of jazz fusion. In the 1970s he formed the fusion band Return to Forever. With Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, and Keith Jarrett, he has been described as one of the major jazz piano voices to emerge in the post-John Coltrane era.

Bill Connors is an American jazz guitarist who was a member of Chick Corea's band Return to Forever. After leaving Return to Forever, he recorded three acoustic albums and then three electric albums as a leader/soloist.

As Return to Forever was disbanding around 1976, Di Meola began recording solo albums on which he demonstrated mastery of jazz fusion, flamenco, and Mediterranean music. [7] His album Elegant Gypsy (1977) received a gold certification. In 1980 he recorded the acoustic live album Friday Night in San Francisco with Paco de Lucía and John McLaughlin. [1]

Flamenco guitar acoustic guitar

A flamenco guitar is a guitar similar to a classical guitar but with thinner tops and less internal bracing. It is used in toque, the guitar-playing part of the art of flamenco.

<i>Elegant Gypsy</i> 1977 studio album by Al Di Meola

Elegant Gypsy is the second album by American jazz fusion guitarist Al Di Meola. It was released in 1977 by Columbia Records.

<i>Friday Night in San Francisco</i> 1981 live album by Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucía

Friday Night in San Francisco is a 1981 live album by Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía. It was described by jazz author and critic Walter Kolosky as "a musical event that could be compared to the Benny Goodman Band's performance at Carnegie Hall in 1938 ... [it] may be considered the most influential of all live acoustic guitar albums".

Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco de Lucia performing in Barcelona, Spain in the 1980s Tres GUITARRISTAS (asi, con mayusculas).jpg
Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco de Lucía performing in Barcelona, Spain in the 1980s

In the beginning of his career, as evidenced on his first solo album Land of the Midnight Sun (1976), Di Meola was noted for his technical mastery and extremely fast, complex guitar solos and compositions. But even on his early albums, he had begun to explore Mediterranean cultures and acoustic genres like flamenco. Notable examples are "Mediterranean Sundance" and "Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil" from the Elegant Gypsy album (1977).

<i>Land of the Midnight Sun</i> (album) 1976 studio album by Al Di Meola

Land of the Midnight Sun is the debut album by jazz fusion guitarist Al Di Meola, released in 1976.

His early albums were influential among rock and jazz guitarists. Di Meola continued to explore Latin music within jazz fusion on Casino and Splendido Hotel . He exhibited a more subtle touch on acoustic numbers "Fantasia Suite for Two Guitars" from the Casino album and on the best-selling live album with McLaughlin and de Lucia, Friday Night in San Francisco . The latter album became one of the most popular live albums for acoustic guitar, selling more than two million copies worldwide. [8]

Di Meola at Leverkusener Jazztage (Forum/Leverkusen/Germany) on November 7, 2016 Al Di Meola - Leverkusener Jazztage 2016-AL1913.jpg
Di Meola at Leverkusener Jazztage (Forum/Leverkusen/Germany) on November 7, 2016

With Scenario , he explored the electronic side of jazz in a collaboration with Jan Hammer (later of Miami Vice theme fame). Beginning with this change, he further expanded his horizons with the acoustic album Cielo e Terra . He began to incorporate the Synclavier guitar synthesizer on mid-1980s albums such as Soaring Through a Dream . By the 1990s, Di Meola recorded albums closer to world music and modern Latin styles than jazz.[ citation needed ] A notable exception was the 1991 album Kiss My Axe , which peaked at #2 on the US Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

However, in 2006 he rediscovered his love of the electric guitar, [9] and the DVD of his concert at the Leverkusen Jazz Festival 2006 is subtitled Return to Electric Guitar. [10]


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The Guitar Trio is a reunion album by Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucía and John McLaughlin, released in 1996 after 13 years without playing together. This 1996 effort has three originals apiece from McLaughlin and Di Meola, two by de Lucía and a McLaughlin-Di Meola duet on "Manhã de Carnaval".

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"Mediterranean Sundance" is the third track on Elegant Gypsy (1977), the second album by Al Di Meola. This piece and "Lady Of Rome, Sister Of Brazil", are the only two entirely acoustic tracks on the album. However, unlike "Lady Of Rome, Sister Of Brazil" which is an acoustic solo by Di Meola, "Mediterranean Sundance" consists of an acoustic guitar duet with flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía. With a duration of 5' 13", the song is a complex blend of jazz and flamenco influences.

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Castillo de Arena is a 1977 album, the last in a series of nine albums featuring flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía and singer Camarón de la Isla. Paco de Lucia's brother Ramón de Algeciras also contributes guitar to the proceedings. The lyrics were written by Antonio Sánchez, with the exception of the bulerías "Samara" which was penned by both Sánchez and de la Isla. After this album, de Lucía turned his attentions to instrumental collaborations with jazz guitarists Larry Coryell, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin, only returning to record again with Camarón on 1981's Como el Agua.

<i>The Promise</i> (John McLaughlin album) 1995 studio album by John McLaughlin

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  1. 1 2 3 Prato, Greg. "Al Di Meola". AllMusic. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  2. Smith, Toby (November 6, 2009). "Al Di Meola, World Sinfonia Australian Tour - March 2010". Music Feeds. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  3. Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians,, backed up by the Internet Archive as of January 26, 2009; accessed September 11, 2017. "Di Meola was born to an Italian family with roots in jazz fusion on July 22nd, 1954 in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from Manhattan. He grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey, located in Bergen County.... When Di Meola completed his studies at Bergenfield High School, he enrolled in classes at the Berklee College of Music in Boston."
  4. Al Di Meola profile, Concord Bicycle Music; accessed September 11, 2017.
    "Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, on July 22, 1954, Al Di Meola grew up with the music of The Ventures, The Beatles and Elvis Presley. ... 'In the '60s, if you didn't play like Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page, you weren't accepted,' he recalls of his high school years in Bergenfield, New Jersey."
  5. Stewart, Zan. The State of Jazz: Meet 40 More Jersey Greats, The Star-Ledger , September 28, 2003, backed up by the Internet Archive as of September 29, 2007. Accessed September 11, 2017. "Al DiMeola -- One of the most dynamic of contemporary guitarists, Jersey City native DiMeola lives in Old Tappan."
  6. "Al Di Meola: "It's Bullshit When Guitarists Say, "One Note Says So Much More Than 100"". Guitar World. July 22, 2016. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  7. 1 2 Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 57. ISBN   978-1-61713-023-6.
  8. Scheel, Christian. "Al Di Meola World Sinfonia". Nova Concerts. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
  9. "In Conversation with Al Di Meola" – special feature on the Speak a Volcano DVD
  10. Speak a Volcano: Return to Electric Guitar (2007) DVD