by Ferell Aubre
Guitarist and composer Al Di Meola has established himself as one of the major guitarist in the jazz fusion genre. Starting in the early 70s Di Meola started to build his reputation with Chick Corea and over time has collaborated with Frank Zappa, Phil Collins, Jimmy Page and Jan Hammer. He has built a loyal following of music lovers and guitar enthusiast. Some consider Di Meola to be one of the pioneers of “shred.” Over 40 years ago, Di Meola released his second studio album entitled, Elegant Gypsy. Now the guitar master is releasing Elegant Gypsy & More LIVE, a brilliant collection of songs recorded last year during his US tour. Out of the six original tracks on Elegant Gypsy Di Meola revisits three, “Race With Devil On Spanish Highway,” “Flight Over Rio” and “Midnight Tango.” The & more songs on Elegant Gypsy & More LIVE range from a Led Zepplin cover to a selection from his time spent with Chick Corea. This live album perfectly captures the passion and fluidity the guitar genius is most known for with each selection showcasing his virtuosity blend of world music, rock and jazz.
“One Night Last June” starts the album. Originally from the 1992 album Kiss My Axe, the song is given new energy and ornaments. Although the original melody and structure is still intact, Di Meola’s live playing is a lot more aggressive, full of energy and zest. The band builds under his solo, especially the percussion and drums, which are robust and interactive, and Di Meola seems to feed upon their energy to lift his ideas and fluid quick lines higher and faster. Another interesting aspect is the guitar tone, originally recorded with a clean acoustic like sound, Di Meola’s live sound is warmly distorted and much more aggressive, which fits the energy of the song much better.
The perfect example of Di Meola’s blend of world music, rock and jazz is conveyed with the closing track, “Race with Devil on Spanish Highway.” Elegant Gypsy & More LIVE coincides with the guitarist sixty-fourth birthday, so the big question is, how does he sound? Better now than ever, like a fine wine Di Meola is getting better with age. His lines are clear, rhythmically driving and his overall concept of phrasing and energy is excellent. Di Meola’s guitar style continues to emphasize his flexibility and quality as a guitar superstar and outstanding composer.
At some point one would surmise that Di Meola might slow down in his dexterity due to sheer age, not so guitar fans, he is in fact becoming more accomplished and masterful as each year passes. This is another in the long and continually growing discography that Di Meola has to offer, is it worth it. A resounding yes, would be my answer.