Al Di Meola

Elegant Gypsy & More LIVE

(EAR Music)

I can vouch for this artist’s dexterity and execution as a live player, because back in the time when I was mainly listening to fusion I went to see the jazz supergroup Return To Forever. Now this crew did waste a lot of the evening giving each other extravagant introductions and testimonials in solemn tones, all somewhat pretentious BUT boy Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Chick Corea and Al Di Meola could whip up an electric storm ! This sound was best realised on their Romantic Warrior studio album. In the wake of such shows, Di Meola was able to consolidate his personal reputation as an impressive acoustic and electric guitar stylist. Here, he revisits some of his earlier successes in the programme.

Opening cut One Night Last June has a tumbling start, enthusiastic drums and percussion to the fore, moody keyboards and classic subterranean but nimble bass, over which Al lays a dextrous guitar topline and the odd hint of Santana in the legato tone. On to Senor Mouse employing a funk backdrop and damped flicking axe slivers and taking its time before the full band lives in. The melody suggests a car chase in an action film. The wailing Les Paul sounds fiery, the piano semi-baroque at times. The time signatures go all over the place and that will alienate some listeners as the beat will not settle. But this heady playing is not for that audience, not at all.

Adour creates a dreamlike vibe from the very start and reminds this veteran listener of Hungarian stylist Gabor Szabo – try The Sorceror – in its elegant but shadowy twisting. Next up is Babylon which sounds sombre indeed, a bass adventure as it commences..again very cinematic. A curious vocal is heard amidst the percussion taps and washes. A dragon walk of a guitar line emerges, stealthy and slippery in the sonic undergrowth. Chiquilin de Bachin lets the bass loose over syncopation and a slightly flanged axe journey, executed with precision. Then Flight Over Rio again nimble with its spidery bass figures and bombastic drum punches. Should have been the opening number as it is really effective, with a hypnotic element as it careers after an overture of sorts into a Santana/McLaughlin style rock raga, the ensemble tracking every nuance with aplomb.

Black Dog is a fiddle-led take on the Zep tune, a bit of a crowd-pleaser. Midnight Tango has a rolling rhythm that is meaty and attractive and easily my favourite in this programme. Here, the group sounds as if it has nothing to prove and they deliver the composition, unable yet again to resist changing the tempo! Egyptian Danza heads into the mysterioso vibe with a vengeance, Di Meola playing as if his life depends on getting through the number. An old favourite to finish with – Race With The Devil On A Spanish Highway. The crowd lap this up!

Clever stuff and a treat for fans – but not everyone’s cup of tea.

Pete Sargeant


(Many thanks to Chris H)

Al Di Meola's new album 'Elegant Gypsy & More LIVE' is out now on Ear Music.

For more information visit his official website here: