Al Di Meola (born July 22, 1954) is an American guitarist who emerged in the jazz-rock supergroup Return to Forever, playing on the 1974–76 albums Where Have I Known You Before, No Mystery, and Romantic Warrior. As a solo artist, he’s issued more than 40 albums, starting with the 1976/77 Columbia titles Land of the Midnight Sun and Elegant Gypsy.
He was born Al Laurence Dimeola on July 22, 1954, to an Italian family in Jersey City, N.J., and grew up in nearby Bergenfield. Inspired by The Ventures, he took up guitar at age eight. His instructor trained him on jazz and bluegrass standards, including the works of guitarists George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Clarence White, and Doc Watson.
In the early 1970s, Di Meola attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston. One year into his studies, he met pianist Barry Miles and joined his backing band, succeeding guitarists Pat Martino and John Abercrombie. The following year, he attended a concert by the jazz-rock supergroup Return to Forever. Vying for a slot in the band, he sent his audition tape to keyboardist and bandleader Chick Corea, who hired the 19-year-old as Bill Connors’ replacement in April 1974.
Corea and Di Meola, along with bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White, constituted the classic RtF lineup that issued three albums between 1974 and 1976. On the first, Where Have I Known You Before, Di Meola plays electric and 12-string acoustic guitar. His playing veers between lightning-fast electric runs and Latin-tinged filigree. The group-composed “Earth Juice” was his first writing credit.
In 1975, RtF released No Mystery, a fusion of jazz-rock and funk. Di Meola contributed the side one epic “Flight of the Newborn” and co-composed the fiery “Excerpt From the First Movement of Heavy Metal.” That same year, he and fellow jazz-rock guitarist Larry Coryell (then of The Eleventh House) played on the 11-minute “Prince of the Sea,” the closing epic on White’s debut solo album Venusian Summer.
In February 1976, RtF recorded Romantic Warrior, a 45-minute collection that crosses jazz-rock, symphonic-rock, Latin rock, and funk. Di Meola — credited with electric and acoustic guitar, plus soprano guitar (a smaller nylon-stringed acoustic), handbell, and slide whistle — contributed “Majestic Dance,” the floodgate of side two. After the band toured the album that summer, Corea dissolved the lineup.
Concurrent to the Warrior sessions, Di Meola contributed to Go, the collaborative effort of percussionist Stomu Yamashta, drummer Michael Shrieve, singer/keyboardist Steve Winwood, and electronic musician Klaus Schulze. Di Meola plays on the conjoined tracks “Man of Leo” / “Stellar” and “Carnival” / “Ghost Machine,” plus the penultimate number “Time Is Here.” On June 12, 1976, he performed the album live with the group at the Palais des Sports in Paris, France. That show spawned the live document Go Live from Paris, released later that year.
- Land of the Midnight Sun (1976)
- Elegant Gypsy (1977)
- Casino (1978)
- Splendido Hotel (2LP, 1980)
- Electric Rendezvous (1982)
- Scenario (1983)
- Passion Grace & Fire (1983 • John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola & Paco de Lucía)
- Cielo e Terra (1985)
- Soaring Through a Dream (1985)
- Tirami su (1987 • Al Dimeola Project)
- Latin (1987 • Γιώργος Νταλάρας συμμετέχει ο Al Di Meola)
- World Sinfonia (1991)
- Kiss My Axe (1991 • The Al Di Meola Project)
- World Sinfonia: Heart of the Immigrants (1993)
- Orange and Blue (1994)
- The Rite of Strings (1995 • Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola & Jean-Luc Ponty)
- Di Meola Plays Piazzolla (1996)
- The Guitar Trio (1996 • Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola & John McLaughlin)
- The Infinite Desire (1998)
- Winter Nights (1999)
- World Sinfonia – The Grande Passion (2000)
- Flesh on Flesh (2002)
- Cosmopolitan Life (2005 • Al Di Meola & Leonid Agutin)
- Vocal Rendezvous (2006)
- Consequence of Chaos (2006)
- Berklee: “Al Di Meola in His Own Words” (Feb. 1, 2016)
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