Al Di Meola
Al Di Meola is a guitarist’s guitarist, but those who listen to his music, in concert or on recordings, are the fortunate recipients of the genius his peers have long recognized. He is considered a pioneer of the blending of world music and jazz, and his career has spanned four decades. He has earned three gold albums and countless awards, including induction into Guitar Player’s Gallery of Greats and the prestigious Montreal Jazz Festival’s Miles Davis Award, which celebrates an artist’s body of work and influence in giving new life to the jazz idiom. That 2015 award would have been the capstone for many careers, but in 2017, Di Meola released OPUS, an album that again refocused his art. Now he has released Across the Universe, a nod to the Beatles in his own eclectic style.
Di Meola grew up in New Jersey and played the guitar as a kid. When he discovered the music of Larry Coryell, whom Di Meola calls “The Godfather of Fusion,” he fell in love with jazz, blues and rock blended together. He enrolled in the Berklee College of Music and when a gig of a band tape was passed along to Chick Corea, the 19-year old was asked to join his supergroup, Return to Forever. The young man was on his way. “I was very impressed with someone merging all the idioms,” he said. “I was growing up with rock and pop, absorbing jazz and had a slight country phase. Larry seemed to embody all of these elements.”
Di Meola has a reputation for rehearsing for hours on end, a regimen he began early-on. I mentioned that old Isaac Stern joke that the way to get to Carnegie Hall was practice, practice, practice. He laughed. “When I went to Berklee, I wanted to make it,” he said. “I thought I should practice as much as possible. Now I find it meditative and relaxing. My first professional gig with Chick Corea was at Carnegie Hall. I got a call and I was in shock. It was a dream come true. I told my parents I was playing Carnegie Hall and my father thought I was joking. I was nervous beyond belief and it was the opportunity of a lifetime. The musicians were already legends, even then, and Return to Forever was my favorite band. They had a strong belief in me, but I didn’t have it yet. I did have the ability to read long charts and had good formal training.”
Di Meola has had success with both the acoustic and electric guitar and he loves them both. For the past 20 years, he has played more acoustic guitar, a legacy of the type of ear damage many musicians have. The strong acoustic following he had from his early years cushioned the transition back to acoustic. “Playing acoustic separates the men from the boys,” he said. “You can’t get away with a lot. With electric, there’s the volume and you can get away with being sloppy.”
Di Meola is a fan of the music of all genres and two of his favorite artists or groups are the tango composer and musician Astor Piazzolla and the Beatles. That seemed an eclectic set of favorites “Piazzolla was the father of modern tango and I’ve done a lot of his work,” Di Meola said. “We had become good friends and his influence was extreme.” In fact, Piazzolla and Di Meola were going to embark on a project together just before the former’s death in 1992. Di Meola has recorded an album of Piazzolla’s work.
In 2017, Di Meola released OPUS, the first of six signed projects with a German record label. For this album, Di Meola wanted to return to composition. “When I started, I was a guitar player trying to be a composer,” he said. “Now I am a composer…guitar player. I have 300 very involved compositions that say I am a composer. I am very proud.”
At this season of his life, Di Meola finds himself in a good, if unexpected place. He has a happy marriage and a young child. “It’s a new relationship,” he said. “It’s the best I’ve ever had, the most complete, with no baggage. It makes being a dad fulfilling, easy and a lot of fun. It’s the least painful I’ve ever been. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it. I’m used to being miserable.” The last, of course, was said tongue-in-cheek, but you could hear the truth there, as well. This is a man who has fulfilled that goal he set for himself so many years ago. He has made it, both professionally and personally, and that makes him a happy (mostly) man.
That the latest album celebrates the Beatles is no surprise. Di Meola admires their often-under-rated musicianship. “Not a day goes by that I’m not involved in thinking about Piazzolla or the Beatles,” he said. “When we first heard the Beatles music, there had been nothing like it. They had an amazing evolution in the 1960s and just got better and better. When they disbanded, I lost interest in their solo careers, but I rediscovered them. I realized their music was incredible and way ahead of its time, with an aesthetic beauty that is overshadowed as they’re just thought of as a pop band. They had a lot of depth.”
Di Meola has paid homage to their influence with his 2013 release, All Your Life, in which he interprets Beatles tunes with his acoustic guitar. Now he has Across the Universe. In a review of the new album in All that Jazz, Doug Collette noted that while the homage to the Beatles is clear, it is true Di Meola. “On songs such as ‘Hey Jude,’ Al Di Meola maintains a supremely artful balance between that which is familiar and his novel expansions on that groundwork, the end result of which should be equally moving to listeners who know this music by heart as well as those music lovers for whom the record will constitute a different kind of epiphany altogether.”
For Al Di Meola, this is the best of times. He’ll follow the sun and see where it takes him.
The 2022 Al Di Meola tour is offering a unique Meet & Greet VIP Package
The Meet & Greet will be held at 5:15pm
VIP Package Includes:
Access to Al’s Soundcheck
Cameras (no flash) giving you a chance for never before, and never again footage of the intimate interaction between Al and his Band. (Video recording is not permitted)
Meet & Greet after Soundcheck and Al will sign up to two pieces of your personal memorabilia.
Signed CD featuring the current Acoustic Band (CD provided as part of package).
Get a chance to personally chat and get a photo with Al. (On your own phone or camera)
Priority access to the merchandise booth prior to the doors opening to the general public.