There may be some guitarists with greater technical facility
than Al Di Meola (1954 – ), but they’re probably not of this
Earth. This statement was made abundantly clear to me
while viewing “Al Di Meola: Live at Montreux 1986 and 1993,”
which is another DVD in the “Live at Montreux” series, released
by Eagle Rock Entertainment in 2004.
Di Meola rose to fame during the mid 1970’s, both as a
member of the Jazz/Rock/Fusion band, “Return to Forever,”
and as a solo artist on albums, such as “Elegant Gypsy” and
“Land of the Midnight Sun.” His name became synonymous
with lightning-fast guitar playing, perhaps to the detriment
of his other musical gifts.
As the name implies, this DVD features two of his
appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival. After an
introduction by the Festival founder, Claude Nobbs, Di Meola
played his entire 45-minute set from 1986 alone, using an
“effectively amped” acoustic guitar. During the set, he
mentioned to the audience that much of the music was
taken from his 1985 vinyl album, “Cielo & Terra.” For lack of
a better term, I’d call this style of music “Jazz/New Age-Fusion,”
emphasizing his trademark high-velocity picking and fretwork,
which is truly a wonder to behold. However, in spite of the
beautiful sounds from his amazing playing, I didn’t find
the music particularly interesting or stimulating.
The other 34-minute set on this disc was taken from 1993,
and Di Meola was joined by a second guitarist, Chris Carrington,
and Armenian percussionist, Arto Tuncboyaciyan, who also
contributed some vocal sounds without lyrics. Although it was
still an “acoustic” set, Di Meola modified his guitar by using
more sophisticated amplification than in 1986, thereby
producing a wider range of sonic options.
This set consisted of three numbers, “Indigo,” “No Mystery,”
and “Tango Suite,” which was an arrangement of a composition
by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1984). Backup guitarist Chris Carrington
provided discrete support throughout the set and allowed
Di Meola to shine. While I remained relatively unmoved by the
music, I did note some impressive exchanges between Di Meola
and Tuncboyaciyan, who primarily used brushes in lieu of drumsticks.
Unfortunately, there are errors on the DVD cover which list a
1989 concert that is not included, as well as an inaccurate
running time of “approximately 67 minutes.” In fact, this is
a 79-minute DVD. The camera work was excellent, the
recorded sound was crisp and clean, and viewers may
choose between audio options.
Regardless of my feelings about the musical compositions,
I cannot deny that Al Di Meola is a truly awesome player,
and I’m glad that I watched this disc. Obviously, Di Meola
fans will want to check it out.