Cover Story [Issue
Al Di Meola:
Truth And Consequence
Consequence of Chaos
CD Telarc )
For over three decades,
Al Di Meola has expanded the boundaries of guitar in terms of technique, style,
harmony, and arrangement in a manner similar to Alexander the Greatís territorial
conquest of the Ancient World. One cannot overstate his influence.
With technical prowess that broke the sonic boom and reached musical heights that
were previously considered impossible, Di Meola sent shockwaves throughout the
world. Chick Corea personally plucked the teenage prodigy from the prestigious
Berklee College of Music to join the fusion supergroup, Return to Forever.
After three landmark RTF albums with Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke, and drummer
Lenny White, the groups disbanding launched the guitarists phenomenal
solo career. On his earliest works such as the seminal Land of the Midnight Sun,
Elegant Gypsy, Casino, and Splendido Hotel, the New Jersey native ignited the
listeners imagination with blistering chops and inventive compositions.
Not only did his works pioneer the parameters of fusion with tracks such as Race
with the Devil on Spanish Highway, the guitarist also crafted some of the
most commercially successful instrumental albums of the era.
While forging an impressive solo career, Di Meola also joined forces with Paco
de Lucia and John McLaughlin to craft several inspiring records. Their watershed
album, Friday Night in San Francisco, captures the trio at the height of its power,
giving brilliant interpretations of the guitarists best works.
After years of successful recordings that focused more on acoustic, Di Meola returns
to his solid body electric guitar on his latest, Consequence of Chaos. Inspired
by an impromptu live performance, Di Meola explains, I appeared at a NAMM
[National Association of Music Merchants] show a few years ago and played a Paul
Reed Smith party that they had and I got the buzz again. The crowd reaction was
phenomenal. The tone, of course, was great because I was using Pauls amplifier
and one of his prized possession guitars. I just got the buzz really strong and
it came back because, especially in the United States, they have to have electric
[guitar]. Its what they yearn for.
Kicking off in grand fashion, the song San Marco bookends the 15-track
collection with two vastly different interpretations. The collection opens with
the lilting Moderna version and closing with the more complex Vecchio
arrangement. Though he did not intend to record the piece twice, the composer
was not initially pleased with the original full band recording of the track and
reworked it. Notorious for his perfectionist tendencies, Di Meola reveals, We
had actually recorded it first in the studio as a band playing the Vecchio
version. I just didnt like the way it came out. It was just as simple as
that. It wasnt hitting me as I had imagined it would. But I could make it
work. My gauge is like this: when I record something and I dont feel like
hearing it again, then I havent gotten it. But, if I want to keep listening
to it because Im so buzzed by it, then I know I have it. The way we had
recorded that piece just wasnt working, so that very next day I went to
the studio and I came up with a completely different concept. Sometimes I like
to go completely left and thats where Moderna came in. I can
readapt almost any song into a different time signature without having to rewrite
it and thats what we did. The end result was something completely new sounding,
almost modern sounding, which is how it got its title. But after recording it,
I said, You know, theres still something beautiful about the Old
World kind of Italian-sounding original version, so I re-recorded it acoustically
as a little tag.
However, the closing track is by no means the only acoustic piece on an otherwise
electric tour de force. Di Meola weaves acoustic musical vignettes throughout
the collection. On many pieces, the artist performs guitar, keyboards, and percussion.
For those who find it surprising that the guitarist would handle percussion with
such an outstanding cast of drummers in his midst, Di Meola reminds that drums
were his first instrument and his rhythmic style of playing stems from an innate
sense of time and rhythmic arrangement. He asserts, Ive done a lot
of percussion parts because I know exactly how I want to hear it and how I want
to play it. Im the composer, so I know where the holes are and where the
counterpoint percussion part should be played and how they should be played. To
convey all of that is very difficult. As the years have gone on, it seems like
Ive been becoming more like a classical composer, as opposed to a fusion
guitarist/composer. The composer has a better view of how things should be played.
Ive always been into percussion and drumming. I very much know how pieces
should be executed. Personally, I think Im a better percussion than I am
a guitar player, but thats another story!
Not only does Consequence of Chaos find Di Meola with his solid body electric
again, but the session brought the maestro full circle with many of his earliest
collaborators. Red Moon and Cry for You feature the man
who gave Di Meola his first enormous break, Chick Corea. After a 27-year hiatus
since the keyboard icon last appeared on one of his recordings, Di Meola was in
disbelief at his old friends continued dominance of the instrument. Of Coreas
contributions, he raves, I was really blown away with his performance because
it reconfirmed his importance and his status. More importantly, not that hes
super old or anything, but he definitely has got that fire that I remember when
we started out. He just ate it up. Red Moon, the solo, I had to rethink
my solo after that (laughs)! They were at such a high level, the duet was just
Beyond noting his skill as an improviser, composer, and performer, Di Meola has
found a special chemistry that he has not experienced to the same degree as he
has with the man that first brought him to the worlds attention. Of the
exciting work together on Consequence of Chaos, he beams, Its rare
that I get to play with a musician that has that kind of improvisatory ability
at that level because what happens is you just breathe together. My way of conversing
with him [musically] was with such ease. He would start a sentence; I would finish
it. Or if I started one, he would finish it. It was just a beautiful conversation
on a high level. I dont have that very often in life. It had to be the best
performance weve ever had on record ever between me and him.
If there is one common ingredient to most of Di Meolas songwriting, it is
the ornate arrangement and sophisticated nuance that permeates each composition.
The track Tempest is nine minutes of winding interplay between instruments,
which sound as though they are dancing around one another. To realize the weaving
flow, the composer describes, I go about it by starting out with some very
interesting arpeggiated changes and I elaborate on it. It could start with two
or three changes with really cool underlying arpeggios. Once you expand on that,
I usually get down to writing it all out. To write the melody is just tinsel on
the tree. Its really kind of simple for me because the inspiration that
I get from the harmony and the interesting parts of the rhythm that are integrated
in that arpeggio make it really kind of simple for me to come up with the melody.
I always have the bass player play a very intricate part and its usually
While Di Meola is proud of Consequence of Chaos and his entire career, he feels
continued disappointment within the industry for a glaring lack of acknowledgement.
To his bewilderment, he wonders why, in all his years of critical acclaim and
stylistic influence across the globe, he has never been nominated for a Grammy
award, let alone won one. He considers Turquoise from his latest album
one of his finest works and does not understand why he repeatedly misses attaining
recognition. He laments, You cant imagine how disappointed I was not
to get some notice from the industry on that piece in terms of maybe a Grammy
nomination. Im really baffled. That was the one that I thought would get
some attention and some industry praise.
However, Al Di Meola feels grateful for the fans across the globe who have given
him an astounding career and life. He has even announced yet another album, which
is available only at his live shows and through his website, aldimeola.com. The
work, Diabolic Inventions and Seduction for Solo Guitar, Volume 1, Music of Astor
Piazzolla, is a fitting tribute to one of his lifelong heroes. Outspoken with
words, fearless in thought, and revolutionary with ideas, Al Di Meola will undoubtedly
forge onward in his maverick life.
Consequence of Chaos