After decades without a visit, one of the most accomplished and revered guitarists is returning to the Aloha State. Al Di Meola took time to speak with HPR All Things Considered Host Dave Lawrence ahead of his Blue Note run September 6 - 9, with shows at 6:30 and 9 p.m. each night celebrating the 40th anniversary of his landmark Elegant Gypsy album. From his early start with Chick Corea in Return to Forever, he's had a remarkable solo career, and equally remarkable collaborations. He discussed some of those, including working with fellow epic shredders like John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia, and incredible experiences with Les Paul, Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa and other music luminaries.
This conversation explores specific areas of Al Di Meola's lengthy career, and begins by detailing this current tour, band members, and musical context, before digging into his earliest guitar experiences. Those formative moments find Al giving credit for his sister's role in introducing the instrument to him, and a critical trip to the U.S. west coast with his mom, where he'd venture into the Fillmore West. The interview continues by telling the story of his brief stay in Boston at Berklee College of Music, and how it led to his first pro gig, as guitarist in Return to Forever featuring Chick Corea. There is the story about discovering Paco de Lucia in Spain and how he'd end up as a guest on Elegant Gypsy, how the original idea for a trio project included Leo Kottke. Also included are some very special experiences with music pioneer Les Paul, Frank Zappa, Bill Graham and others in a discussion likely to engage any guitar or Al Di Meola fans.
Hear the complete interview:
Hear the complete original version of the epic "Race With The Devil On Spanish Highway":
See some classic live videos of Al through the years
With Return to Forever on the Old Grey Whistle Test TV program:
An early solo moment in 1978:
With John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia in 1980:
Live in 1994:
The 1996 reunion with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia:
The 2008 Return to Forever reunion:
Live in 2009:
Live in 2016:
Al talks about the "Elegant Gypsy and More" Electric Tour: