Al DiMeola – Artist Profile
Artist Profile: Al DiMeola
by Paula Edelstein
Uncompromising and unafraid of creating expansive musical hybrids, Al Di Meola remains one of the most prominent forces on the contemporary jazz scene. The guitar virtuoso’s undeniable talents continue to evolve beautifully as evidenced by his ability to escape irrelevance by constantly reinventing his unique aural features, technique and commercially successful compositions. His rare concerts command standing room only audiences around the world and when DiMeola comes to town…everyone knows they’re in for a great show.
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. Drums were his first instrument, but by age eight he had switched to guitar. A big influence on his music outlook during his formative years was the burgeoning hybrid of rock and jazz that came to be known as fusion music. Guitarist Larry Coryell, whom Al later dubbed “The Father Of Fusion,” became a particular focus of interest. Following an intensive period of wood shedding between his junior and senior years in high school, in which he practiced the guitar from eight to ten hours a day, Al emerged with impressive chops and a clear idea of how to apply them. In 1971, Al enrolled at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. By the second semester, he was playing in a fusion quartet led by keyboardist Barry Miles. It was in the early part of 1974 that he received a career changing call from Chick Corea. Following a weekend of rehearsals with that band, Return to Forever, Di Meola made his debut with RTF at Carnegie Hall. The next night he played to a crowd of 40,000 in Atlanta. His star quickly ascended.
After three wildly successful landmark fusion albums with Corea on keyboards, Stanley Clarke on bass, Lenny White on drums and Di Meola on guitarWhere Have I Known You Before, the Grammy Award winning No Mystery and Romantic WarriorRTF disbanded in 1976, effectively launching Al’s solo career.
He debuted in 1976 with Land Of The Midnight Sun, a typically blazing showcase of his frenetic, slashing style, which also featured performances by drummers Lenny White and Steve Gadd, percussionist Mingo Lewis, synth wizards Jan Hammer and Barry Miles, bassists Anthony Jackson and Jaco Pastorius. Over the course of six more albums with Columbia RecordsCasino, Elegant Gypsy, Splendido Hotel, Electric Rendezvous, Tour De Force and ScenarioDi Meola firmly established himself as a powerful and influential force in contemporary music. He went on to record a string of highly evocative, pan-global projects for the Manhattan/EMI, Tomato and Mesa/Bluemoon labels before signing with Telarc.
Di Meola continued to conquer new musical horizons on The Infinite Desire, his 1998 Telarc debut, which featured his most extensive and effective use of midi technology ever. The Infinite Desire has sold more than 100,000 copies to date and logged over 3 months on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart.
1999 saw the release of Di Meola’s first-ever seasonal recording, Winter Nights, which featured original compositions alongside renditions of traditional carols and contemporary standards like Peter Gabriel’s “Mercy Street” and Paul Simon’s “Scarborough Fair.” Elegant, melodic, and beautifully crafted, Winter Nights also included the extraordinary work of Roman Hrynkiv on bandura, an Ukranian folk instrument with an enchanting sound and texture.
On The Grande Passion, released in 2000, Di Meola continued to explore melody and rhythmic diversity with the help of his acoustic group, World Sinfonia. His critically acclaimed 2002 album, Flesh On Flesh, put the spotlight back on his outstanding electric guitar work. Al’s fifth Telarc release, Consequence of Chaos, offers a contemporary set of 15 original compositions and guest appearances by pianist Chick Corea, drummer Steve Gadd, keyboardist Barry Miles, and bassist John Patitucci, among others.