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Live Music Review: Al Di Meola at The Plaza Live

Brian G Phillips


Al Di Meola a bona fide guitar hero, perennial poll-winner, and prolific composer, he has amassed over 20 albums as a leader while collaborating on a dozen or so others with the likes of the fusion supergroup Return to Forever (with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White), the celebrated acoustic Guitar Trio featuring fellow virtuosos John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia, and the Rite of Strings trio with bassist Clarke and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. And while his dazzling technique on both acoustic and electric guitars has afforded him regal status among the hordes of fretboard fanatics who regularly flock to his concerts, the depth of Di Meola's writing along with the soulfulness and the inherent lyricism of his guitaristic expression have won him legions of fans worldwide beyond the guitar aficionado set.

THE ELECTRIC YEARS SPRING 2024 TOUR landed at The Plaza Live in Orlando, FL featuring Al’s electric song selections from such classic albums as Land of the Midnight Sun, Elegant Gypsy, Casino and Splendido Hotel. These are some of my favorite albums and coveted by hard core Al Di fans! The band featured such great musicians as Philippe Saisse-keyboard, Luis Antonio Alicea-drums, Elias Tona-bass and the ol man Gumbi Ortiz-percussion. Al was at the top of his game after all of these years and even broke out the iconic black Gibson Les Paul which he told me he hadn’t used in decades live. He played such classic as “Casino” (which he had never played live), “Flight Over Rio,” “The Wizard,” “Dark Eye Tango,” “Elegant Gypsy Suite,” “Egyptian Danza” and one of my all-time favorites “Race With the Devil on Spanish Highway.” He even went back as far as 1974 visiting the Return to Forever album Where Have I Known You Before playing “Beyond the Seventh Galaxy.” All of which are favorite tracks played on my weekly show Guitar Trax. Al explained to me that he took lessons with Larry Coryell when he was young and how Larry really inspired him with all of his experimental merging of rock music with jazz. He was a real British Invasion fan as well delving into the sounds of the 60’s from London and San Francisco.

The show was an astounding display of virtuoso playing, but yet staying true to melodic hooks that reach down into your soul. There was a real rapport between Al and the musicians, which was evident on stage and in their improvisations. The Electric Years Tour was truly an inspiring show and a must see to hear a guitar great at his best! *****

Multi-Emmy award winning Brian Tarquin is an established top rate composer/guitarist/producer. Through the past 30 years he has enjoyed Top 10 radio hits in several formats. His recent release "Beyond The Warrior's Eyes" went #1 on the Roots Music Reports Top 50 Fusion Albums. His music has been heard by tens of millions on a plethora of television and film scores.