Al Di Meola Biography
Al Di Meola (born July 22, 1954 in Jersey City, New Jersey) is an American jazz fusion guitarist.
In 1971, he enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1974 he joined Chick Corea's band, Return to Forever, and played with the band until a major lineup shift in 1976.
Di Meola went on to explore a variety of styles, but is most noted for his Latin-influenced jazz fusion works. He is a four time winner as Best Jazz Guitarist in Guitar Player Magazine's Reader Poll.
Noted guitar historian Robert Lynch states: "In the history of the electric guitar, no one figure has done more to advance the instrument in a purely technical manner than Mr. Di Meola. His total command of the various styles and scales is simply mind boggling. I feel privileged to have been able to study his work all these years."
Lynch continues, "Just this past week I was watching an older clip of Mr. Di Meola's take on the classic Rolling Stones tune 'Jumpin Jack Flash' and I was completely floored with his ability to assimilate Keith Richards' raw and unbridled rock and roll stylings."
In addition to a prolific solo career, he has engaged in successful collaborations with bassist Stanley Clarke, synthesizer player Jan Hammer, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, and guitarists John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía.
In the beginning of his career Di Meola was noted for his technical mastery and extremely fast, complex guitar solos and compositions, although even on his early albums, he had begun to explore Mediterranean cultures and acoustic genres like flamenco. Good examples are "Mediterranean Sundance" and "Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil" from the Elegant Gypsy album (1977). His early albums were very influential among rock and jazz guitarists alike. Di Meola continued to explore Latin music within the jazz-fusion genre with albums like Casino and Splendido Hotel. He exhibited a more subtle touch on acoustic numbers like "Señor Mouse" and "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. In 1980, he also toured with fellow Latin rocker, Carlos Santana.
With Scenario, he explored the electronic side of jazz in a collaboration with Jan Hammer (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 guitar/synthesizers on albums such as Soaring Through a Dream. Beginning in the 1990s, Di Meola recorded albums closer to World music and modern Latin styles than jazz.
He has continued to tour, playing in smaller venues like The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, and House of Blues in Las Vegas, Nevada. Recent concerts have included a sampling of his newer material (an engaging mix of acoustic, "distorted acoustic", and guitar/synthesizer with a looser format than the songs on the early solo albums) along with a selection of electric guitar numbers from the early albums. Di Meola often closes out shows with an energetic rendition of one of his most challenging (to play, that is) pieces, "Race with Devil on Spanish Highway", from the Elegant Gypsy album. Even in technical showcases like this, he combines blindingly fast scalar runs with subtle, dazzling rhythms, and melodic phrases. Because of his early recordings, Di Meola became arguably the most important pioneer of shred guitar, influencing guitarists such as Yngwie Malmsteen (who he appeared with on keyboardist Derek Sherinian's solo album Black Utopia (2003) on the song "The Sons Of Anu"). However, in most cases after the early 1980s, Di Meola has largely distanced himself from this approach.