Berklee today is the official alumni publication of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. It is a forum for contemporary music and musicians.
Issue link: http://berkleetoday.epubxp.com/i/633318
24 Berklee today Al Di Meola in His Own Words A guitar legend looks back then forward. By Mark Small Guitarist Al Di Meola '74 has probably played more complex, cross-picked arpeggio fgures than any other living guitarist. In his solos, his pick futters with the speed of a humming- bird's wings, but with greater intensity. During the 1970s and 1980s he consistently topped music magazine polls and was chief among the guitar titans who rode the wave in the heyday of jazz fusion. Throughout his long career he has in- fuenced hordes of young guitarists worldwide. His star ascended while he was still a Berklee student. Di Meola received a call from Chick Corea to replace Earl Klugh as the guitarist in Corea's Return to Forever band. He hur- ried to New York and rehearsed with the legendary lineup (keyboardist-composer Chick Corea, drummer Lenny White, bassist Stanley Clarke) for a few days before they appeared at Carnegie Hall. The 19-year old Di Meola's fery guitar playing was a contributing factor to that group's album No Mystery winning a Grammy in 1975, and further success. The following year, Di Meola released his frst solo album, Land of the Midnight Sun, featuring a star-studded array of guest instru- mentalists. Since his debut as a leader, Di Meola has released 27 more albums. Among Di Meola's other notable collaborations was the acoustic guitar trio he formed in 1982 with fellow guitar vir- tuosi John McLaughlin and the late Paco de Lucía. The frst of their two albums, the live recording Friday Night in San Francisco, achieved multiplatinum sales and the group drew thousands to their concerts around the world. During the 1990s, Di Meola put together The Rite of Strings, another acoustic trio with violinist Jean Luc Ponty and bassist Stanley Clarke. They also recorded an album and toured extensively. On his latest recording, Elysium, Di Meola weaves sinewy lines in and out of electric- and acoustic-guitar textures. In the fall of 2015, Di Meola completed a tour of the United States. with an electric band for the frst time in several years. In July 2015, the guitar master became the 22nd recipient of the Montreal Jazz Festival's Miles Davis Award presented to artists for "contributions to the continuing tradition of jazz." Having recently married a German woman, Di Meola cur- rently divides his time between homes in Munich, Germany, and Miami, Florida. In a recent phone call from the States, he looked back over his long and successful career. A Storied Start I started out like most kids in the early sixties liking pop and rock music. I took lessons at a local music shop with a teacher who was an old-school jazz buff. He taught me a lot related to jazz chords and scales. In my teen years, I went through phases with rock and, for a short time, bluegrass, and then shifted back into jazz. Living in New Jersey, close to New York City, I could easily go into the city to hear all kinds of mu- sic. I went to Latin music clubs, jazz clubs in the Village, and to rock shows at Fillmore East. All of it was inspirational, you learn as much from listening and watching as you do from lessons. I had been at Berklee about a year when I got a chance to audition for the Barry Miles Quartet. Barry was the frst fusion musician. He'd had Pat Martino and then John Abercrombie playing guitar in his band, and all the guitar players at Berklee were checking out Barry's records back then. Somehow a friend of mine met Barry and told him about me. He was interested in auditioning me at the Bitter End in New York. I got the gig, and Ieft Berklee and spent six or seven months working with Barry's group. Then I came back to Berklee. But a semester after I returned to Berklee, Michael, the same friend who helped me connect with Barry, connected me with Chick Corea. Michael was an amateur recording en- gineer and had made a pretty good sounding tape of me playing live with Barry. A bunch of us from Berklee had gone to see Return to Forever when they played in Boston, and I told Michael that I'd give anything to be in that band. He somehow found Chick and persuaded him to listen to the tape. I got a call from Chick saying he'd listened to the tape and loved what he heard. He asked me to come to New York to audition. I got the gig, and after a couple days of rehearsal we played at Carnegie Hall. Unplugged Career Launch My acoustic guitar playing started with Chick. There was a segment within the show where he wanted each member of the band to play an unaccompanied acoustic solo. So I got an Ovation acoustic guitar, and that's how it began. I saw op- portunities for acoustic guitar. You can play more intricate Al Di Meola, 2015 CAREER RETROSPECTIVES