Albert Laurence Di Meola (born July 22, 1954)[1] is an American guitarist. Known for his works in jazz fusion and world music, he began his career as guitarist with the group Return to Forever in 1974. From 1976 to 1978 he played with Stomu Yamashta in the supergroup Go on three records. The 1970s and 1980s saw albums such as Land of the Midnight Sun, Elegant Gypsy, Casino and Friday Night in San Francisco earn him both critical and commercial success.[2][3]

Al Di Meola
Al Di Meola at the Granada Theater, Dallas, Texas, December 6, 2006
Al Di Meola at the Granada Theater, Dallas, Texas, December 6, 2006
Background information
Birth nameAlbert Laurence Di Meola
Born (1954-07-22) July 22, 1954 (age 69)
Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
GenresJazz, jazz fusion, world music, world fusion
Years active1974 – present
LabelsColumbia, Telarc, Tomato
Formerly ofReturn to Forever

Early life edit

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey,[1] into an Italian family with roots in Cerreto Sannita, a small town northeast of Benevento, Di Meola grew up in Bergenfield, where he attended Bergenfield High School.[4][5] He has been a resident of Old Tappan, New Jersey.[6]

When he was eight years old, he was inspired by Elvis Presley and the Ventures to start playing guitar. His teacher directed him toward jazz standards. He cites as influences jazz guitarists George Benson and Kenny Burrell and bluegrass and country guitarists Clarence White and Doc Watson.[7]

Career edit

Di Meola with Return to Forever at Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, New York, 1974
Di Meola with Chick Corea in Rochester, New York, 1976

He attended Berklee College of Music in 1971.[1] At nineteen, he was hired by Chick Corea to replace Bill Connors in the pioneering jazz fusion band Return to Forever with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White.[1] He recorded three albums with Return to Forever, helping the quartet earn its greatest commercial success as all three albums cracked the Top 40 on the U.S. Billboard pop albums chart.[2]

As Return to Forever was disbanding around 1976, Di Meola began recording solo albums on which he demonstrated a mastery of jazz fusion, flamenco, and Mediterranean music.[8] His album Elegant Gypsy (1977) received a gold certification. In 1980, he recorded the acoustic live album, Friday Night in San Francisco, with Paco de Lucía and John McLaughlin.[2]

Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco de Lucía performing in Barcelona, Spain in the 1980s

In the beginning of his career, as evidenced on his first solo album Land of the Midnight Sun (1976, on which Jaco Pastorius and the ex-members of RTF collaborated), Di Meola was noted for his technical mastery and extremely fast, complex guitar solos and compositions. But even on his early albums, he had begun to explore Mediterranean cultures and acoustic genres like flamenco. Notable examples are "Mediterranean Sundance" and "Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil" from the Elegant Gypsy album (1977).

His early albums were influential among rock and jazz guitarists. Di Meola continued to explore Latin music within jazz fusion on Casino and Splendido Hotel. He exhibited a more subtle touch on acoustic numbers "Fantasia Suite for Two Guitars" from the Casino album and on the best-selling live album with McLaughlin and de Lucia, Friday Night in San Francisco. The latter album became one of the most popular live albums for acoustic guitar, selling more than two million copies worldwide.[9]

Di Meola at Leverkusener Jazztage (Forum/Leverkusen/Germany) on November 7, 2016

In the mid-1980s, Di Meola began to incorporate the Synclavier guitar synthesizer into his compositions. Except for the occasional electric guitar foray on albums such as 1991's Kiss My Axe, he spent most of the next two decades exploring both acoustic and world music. He rediscovered his love of the electric guitar in 2006,[10] and the DVD of his concert at the Leverkusen Jazz Festival 2006 is subtitled Return to Electric Guitar.[11] In 2018, Di Meola was awarded an honorary doctorate of music from his alma mater, Berklee College of Music.[12]

Personal life edit

In July 2016, Al Di Meola married Stephanie Kreis[1] after meeting after a 2013 concert of his in Budapest.[13]

Al has two daughters from a previous relationship; Oriana[14] and Valentina.[15] He also has a daughter with Stephanie, named Ava.[16] Additionally he is a first-time grandfather with his grandson named Orion[17][18] from daughter Valentina.

In September 2023 while performing on stage in Bucharest, Romania Di Meola suffered a heart attack. He was admitted to a local hospital where he was treated for ST elevation myocardial infarction.[19] He took some time off from performances, but began performing again in January 2024.[20]

Discography edit

With Return to Forever edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 697. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ a b c Prato, Greg. "Al Di Meola". AllMusic. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  3. ^ Smith, Toby (November 6, 2009). "Al Di Meola, World Sinfonia Australian Tour – March 2010". Music Feeds. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians,, backed up by the Internet Archive as of January 26, 2009; accessed September 11, 2017. "Di Meola was born to an Italian family with roots in jazz fusion on July 22nd, 1954 in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from Manhattan. He grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey, located in Bergen County.... When Di Meola completed his studies at Bergenfield High School, he enrolled in classes at the Berklee College of Music in Boston."
  5. ^ Al Di Meola profile, Concord(entertainment company); accessed September 11, 2017.
    "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. ... 'In the '60s, if you didn't play like Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page, you weren't accepted,' he recalls of his high school years in Bergenfield, New Jersey."
  6. ^ Stewart, Zan. The State of Jazz: Meet 40 More Jersey Greats, The Star-Ledger, September 28, 2003, backed up by the Internet Archive as of September 29, 2007. Accessed September 11, 2017. "Al DiMeola – One of the most dynamic of contemporary guitarists, Jersey City native DiMeola lives in Old Tappan."
  7. ^ "Al Di Meola: "It's Bullshit When Guitarists Say, "One Note Says So Much More Than 100"". Guitar World. July 22, 2016. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  8. ^ Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.
  9. ^ Scheel, Christian. "Al Di Meola World Sinfonia". Nova Concerts. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
  10. ^ "In Conversation with Al Di Meola" – special feature on the Speak a Volcano DVD
  11. ^ Speak a Volcano: Return to Electric Guitar (2007) DVD
  12. ^ "Al Di Meola Gets Honorary Berklee Doctorate". JazzTimes. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
  13. ^ "Instagram". Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  14. ^ "Instagram". Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  15. ^ "Instagram". Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  16. ^ "Instagram". Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  17. ^ "Instagram". Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  18. ^ "Instagram". Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  19. ^ "US guitarist Al Di Meola suffers a heart attack on stage in Romania but is now in a stable condition". AP News. September 28, 2023. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  20. ^ "Instagram". Retrieved February 10, 2024.

External links edit