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Jazz Fusion & Jazz Rock - Released April 12, 1985 | Manhattan Records

Having grown a bit weary of playing loud fusion, Al DiMeola recorded a largely acoustic set on his debut for Manhattan. DiMeola, who augments his acoustic guitar with the orchestral Synclavier guitar, plays five unaccompanied solos and is joined on the other four numbers by percussionist Airto Moreira. Other than Keith Jarrett's "Coral," all of the moody selections are by the guitarist. An interesting, if not overly memorable, atmospheric set. ~ Scott Yanow

Jazz - Released August 16, 1984 | Columbia


Jazz - Released June 8, 2015 | Valiana - Songsurfer


Jazz - Released December 14, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

Following up the superb Elegant Gypsy was no mean feat, but Al di Meola gave it his best shot with the similarly styled Casino, released in 1978. Featuring a core band of Steve Gadd, Anthony Jackson, and Barry Miles (whom di Meola came up with before the guitarist was invited to join Return to Forever), the playing is sharp and fiery, matching the youthful intensity of the leader. Di Meola is a good composer in the fusion idiom, and the four original compositions on Casino, although clearly bearing the mark of Chick Corea's influence, are strong. His "Fantasia Suite for Two Guitars," featuring di Meola accompanying himself via multi-tracking, is beautiful and dramatic, and hints at the guitarist's later all-acoustic works such as Friday Night in San Francisco. "Dark Eye Tango" opens with a slow theme before turning into an uptempo vehicle for di Meola's darting Les Paul. In fact, it is the leader's solos that frequently prevent the Latin grooves and rhythms found on Casino from sounding stale and a bit dated. His trademark staccato phrasing and high-velocity improvisations are what is noticed upon first listen, but di Meola does have an excellent sense of phrasing that is undeniably present. Contrary to popular opinion, he knows how to use his technique to good effect. Casino is not as strong as either Elegant Gypsy or Romantic Warrior, but is nevertheless well worth picking up for fans either of di Meola himself or of the entire 1970s fusion scene. ~ Daniel Gioffre

Jazz - Released August 14, 1986 | Columbia


Jazz - Released September 10, 2013 | Valiana - Songsurfer


Jazz - Released January 1, 1992 | Blue Note Records

This is the best of Al di Meola's years with the Manhattan label, which only included three releases: Cielo e Terra, Soaring Through a Dream, and Tirami Su. The selections here are an adequate representation of his output during this three-session stint, so this is fine for the casual fan. Those with more interest are encouraged to check out all three of the aforementioned releases, as they are all excellent. ~ Robert Taylor

Jazz - Released May 17, 1990 | Columbia - Legacy

Talk about ambitious. This two-LP set finds guitarist Al di Meola performing with his quintet of the time (featuring keyboardist Philippe Saisse), with studio musicians, solo, in a reunion with pianist Chick Corea, singing a love song, and welcoming veteran Les Paul for a version of "Spanish Eyes." Most of the music works quite well and it shows that di Meola (best-known for his speedy rock-oriented solos) is a surprisingly well-rounded and versatile musician. ~ Scott Yanow

Jazz - Released October 12, 2000 | Columbia

Sony's third anthology of Return to Forever guitarist Al di Meola's Columbia Records years hits most of the bases and scores extra points by adding four previously unavailable live tracks that account for a whopping 40 minutes of playing time. The double disc features 16 songs from di Meola's seven albums for the label from 1975-1983 and successfully covers highlights from the jazz guitar fusionist's eclectic styles during his early career. Only 22 when his first solo album, Land of the Midnight Sun, was released, di Meola had already cut his teeth for three years with Chick Corea's Return to Forever, and although his style owed a lot to Corea's vision, he had already defined his sound. The guitarist's precise attack, staccato playing, furious speed, and heavily percussive arrangements would serve him well throughout these formative years. Even though he was often criticized for playing too many notes (just listen to the frantic, head-spinning beginning of "Suite: Golden Dawn" from Land of the Midnight Sun), di Meola's more subtle roots in Latin, flamenco, funk, and rock are evident in almost all of his work. He even incorporates strains of the world music that later became the dominant force in his recordings. Although there is evidence of a softer approach, the majority of Anthology concentrates on the hyperactive fret-hopping ability of the young di Meola as he tries to prove he's the fastest guitarist in the world. Even on the acoustic, newly released live tracks from 1978 like the 11-minute "Medley: Short Tales from the Black Forest/Fantasia Suite for Two Guitars," the results are anything but laid-back. Oddly, the disc does not include anything from di Meola's two predominately unplugged trio albums, when he partnered with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía for a tremendously successful guitar summit. With three tracks off Tour de Force: Live and another four from concerts in 1982 and 1978, this disc includes almost an hour of di Meola and his versatile and talented bands tearing it up in front of appreciative audiences. While that makes for some hot guitar showcases, it also focuses too heavily on his frantic fingering, a style which gets wearing over the long haul. The audio fidelity of the newly released live songs is also of substantially inferior quality (the 1982 selections are particularly bad, with the drums sounding like trash cans), making them even more difficult to listen to. But with almost two and a half hours of music, along with liner notes that feature pertinent quotes from the artist, there's plenty on these discs to enjoy. Fret-shredders of all ages will undoubtedly be inspired by the astounding musicianship exemplified here. It's not a full picture of the guitarist's skills, but Anthology is a well-chosen compilation of a major portion of di Meola's career. ~ Hal Horowitz

Jazz - Released January 27, 2017 | Valiana - Songsurfer


Jazz - Released August 15, 1986 | Columbia

With this recording, Al di Meola thankfully left behind the pop-fusion sound that he had perfected with Jan Hammer. This was his first venture using the Roland guitar synthesizer and a drum machine. The technology used on this recording sounds dated, but the intent seems genuine. Jan Hammer's Miami Vice sound can be heard throughout, especially on "Sequencer"; di Meola places more emphasis on composition and production than on his famous technique. This turns out to be a refreshing change, but it would have been nice to hear him jam with Phil Collins on "Island Dreamer" rather than lying back on what turns out to be a disappointing collaboration. "Calliope" finds di Meola aligned with Bill Bruford and Tony Levin, although this too turns out to be a disappointment. Certainly a turning point in di Meola's career, but hardly at the level of his later output. ~ Robert Taylor

Jazz - Released September 23, 1983 | Columbia

Recorded shortly before Al di Meola decided to de-emphasize his electric guitar in favor of his acoustic counterpart, this live set does a fine job of summing up his first six years of recordings. Four of the six numbers (all but "Nena" and "Advantage") were previously recorded by the pacesetting fusion guitarist. With strong and stimulating contributions made by keyboardist Jan Hammer, electric bassist Anthony Jackson, drummer Steve Gadd, percussionist Mingo Lewis, and second keyboardist Victor Godsey (some additional keyboards and percussion were overdubbed later in the studio), di Meola is typically stunning on such originals as "Elegant Gypsy Suite" and "Race with Devil on Spanish Highway." ~ Scott Yanow

Jazz - Released January 1, 2002 | Telarc

Al di Meola continues to broaden his musical horizons with Flesh on Flesh, his fourth release for the Telarc recording label. The great guitarist is joined by two members of his World Sinfonia acoustic group -- Gumbi Ortiz on percussion and Mario Parmisano on keyboards -- in addition to such stellar musicians as Gonzalo Rubalcaba, flutist Alejandro Santos, and bassist Anthony Jackson, who recorded with di Meola on his 1977 best-selling album, Elegant Gypsy. Offering classic guitar lines on an array of guitars (including a vintage Les Paul, Fender Stratocaster, and Conde-Romano acoustic), di Meola is memorable, timeless, and true to the beauty, culture and sensual imagery that inspired him to compose and arrange these eight great songs. Each song is a masterpiece, and such compositions as "Flesh on Flesh" (which features him on five different instruments), "Zona Desperata," and "Fugata" (which showcases di Meola trading with Gonzalo Rubalcaba on their Fender Rhodes solo in part three) are just three of the musical statements befitting all who've been lucky enough to see or hear di Meola's phenomenal sound "live." To hear that same energy and excitement recorded "live" on Flesh on Flesh is especially gratifying since the music is developed and takes place in a new context, space, and time. You'll find that every graceful musical curve, every dynamic concept, every technological update heard on Flesh on Flesh is a celebration of new forms and functions, of strict rhythmic reinterpretation and the inimitable di Meola sound and guitar virtuosity. A must-have. ~ Paula Edelstein

Jazz - Released July 1, 1986 | Columbia

One of the guitar heroes of fusion, Al di Meola was just 22-years-old at the time of his debut as a leader but already a veteran of Chick Corea's Return to Forever. The complex pieces (which include the three-part "Suite-Golden Dawn," an acoustic duet with Corea on "Short Tales of the Black Forest," and a brief Bach violin sonata show di Meola's range even at this early stage. With assistance from such top players as bassists Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke, keyboardist Barry Miles, and drummers Lenny White and Steve Gadd, this was a very impressive beginning to di Meola's solo career. ~ Scott Yanow

Pop - Released March 7, 2005 | Olè Records


Jazz - Released April 1, 1997 | Columbia - Legacy

Latin America - Released January 15, 2016 | Valiana - Songsurfer

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Jazz - Released July 21, 1994 | Legacy - Columbia

During his career, guitar hero Al di Meola has wowed his fans with lightning-fast technique, blurring single lines, and energy. What is lost amidst the pyrotechnics are original ideas and the value of restraint. On these nine tracks taken from the Columbia label recordings Casino, Scenario, Electric Rendezvous, Elegant Gypsy, and Splendido Hotel, there's all a flashy air guitarist's fingers could dream of playing, but di Meola can and will. The acoustic pieces, especially "Passion, Grace and Fire" with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía, somehow rein di Meola in, while "Mediterranean Sundance" might be his best individual composition musically. There's also a fine version of "Señor Mouse," which he once performed with Chick Corea. The remainder of the tracks, objectively, are not the best from any of his recordings. This is a disappointingly chosen collection, and fans would be better served by the several other compilation CDs that are available. ~ Michael G. Nastos

Jazz - Released January 1, 2000 | Telarc


Al Di Meola in the magazine