Personalities | Al Di Meola | A Technical Maestro | Guitar Heroes

Al Di Meola (b. 1954) rose to the top tier of contemporary jazz guitarists through his work with Chick Corea’s Return To Forever in the Seventies. In addition to a prolific solo career, he has collaborated on projects with bassist Stanley Clarke, keyboardist Jan Hammer, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and guitarists John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía.

Al Laurence Dimeola was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, and grew up in nearby Bergenfield. In 1971 he enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 1974 he joined Chick Corea’s band, Return To Forever, remaining until 1976. In RTF Di Meola was first noted for his technical mastery and fast, complex guitar solos and compositions. Di Meola built on his reputation with his first solo album Land Of The Midnight Sun (1976). He branched out to explore Mediterranean cultures and acoustic genres like flamenco on cuts like ‘Mediterranean Sundance’ and ‘Lady Of Rome, Sister Of Brazil’ from Elegant Gypsy (1977).

Di Meola continued to explore Latin motifs on albums like Casino (1978) and Splendido Hotel (1980). He showed his range on acoustic numbers like ‘Fantasia Suite For Two Guitars’ from the Casino album, and on the best-selling live album with McLaughlin and de Lucía, Friday Night In San Francisco (1980). Also in 1980 he toured with fellow Latin rocker, Carlos Santana.

With Scenario (1983), he explored the electronic side of jazz in a collaboration with Jan Hammer. He broadened his acoustic sensibilities on Cielo E Terra (1985) and incorporated guitar/synthesizers on albums such as Soaring Through A Dream (1985).

In the Nineties, Di Meola moved into ethnic and world music and explored modern Latin styles. He mixed acoustic and guitar-synthesizer pieces with a selection of electric guitar numbers from earlier albums, such as the blistering ‘Race With Devil On Spanish Highway’ from Elegant Gypsy.

Di Meola has been more active on acoustic guitar in recent years because of tinnitus from years of playing at excessive volumes. He played a series of dates with Return To Forever’s mid-Seventies line-up of Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White in 2008.

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