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Al Di Meola - Al Di Meola plays Piazzolla [1996]


Intense, that’s the best word to describe the character of the music that took hold at the outset of the 70’s. Powered by stacks of amplifiers, propelled by rock backbeats, fueled with unbridled passion, and full of the spirit of jazz improvisation, this so-called fusion music coalesced into a full blown movement with the arrival of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House, and Chick Corea’s Return to Forever. We can feel the intensity in Di Meola’s playing in his debut with Return o Forever, 1974’s «Where Have I Known You Before», or their 1975 follow-up, the Grammy-winning «No Mystery». That power-house formula of dizzying speed, demanding unison lines, and rock intensity continues on the group’s 1976 Columbia debut, «Romantic Warrior» and carries over to Di Meola’s debut as a leader, «Land of the Midnight Sun», released the same year on Columbia. His signature sound, the ringing sustain of a Les Paul played through a Marshall stack is an integral part of al those projects. Guitar Player magazine named Di Meola «best new talent» for 1975 on the strength of his playing on «No Mystery». It awarded him «Best Jazz guitarist» for 1977 and also named his «Elegant Gypsy» «Best Guitar Lp» for that year. Al went on to dominate the Best Jazz Guitarist» category, winning five consecutive years through 1981, while also earning «Best Guitar Lp» awards in 1978 for «Casino» and in 1980 for «Splendido Hotel». With those impressive credits, Al was instantly inducted into Guitar Player’s Gallery of the Greats, becoming the youngest player in the magazine’s history ever accorded that honor.

At the outset of the 80’s, Di Meola put his Les Paul on the shelf and turned to the acoustic guitar, touring and recorded with a superstar trio including McLaughlin and Spain’s flamenco master, Paco de Lucia. He returned to his old electrified ways briefly with 1982’s «Electric Rendez-vous» and its follow-up, «Tour De Force Live». In 1983, the same year he recorded the bravado studio album «Passion, Grace & Fire» with the acoustic trio, De Meola had a brief reunion tour with his old RTF mates, Corea, drummer Lenny White, and bassist Stanley Clarke. Though the tour proved that the intensity was still very much alive, no record was released of this powerhouse fusion unit, together again for the first time since the 1976 breakup.

Review from Alex Henderson, All Music Guide:

"Latin music has been a strong influence on Al Di Meola since his early years, and in the '90s, he paid especially close attention to the music of Argentina. A welcome addition to his already impressive catalog, Di Meola Plays Piazzolla pays homage to the late Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla (whose distinctive and very poetic brand of romanticism was considered quite daring and radical in Argentina). It would have been easy for an artist to allow his own personality to become obscured when saluting Piazzolla's legacy, but the charismatic Di Meola is too great an improviser to let that happen. Though his reverence for Piazzolla comes through loud and clear on these haunting classics, there's no mistaking the fact that this is very much an Al Di Meola project."

Track List:

01. Oblivión (6:01)
02. Café 1930 (6:13)
03. Tango Suite, Pt. 1 (8:49)
04. Tango Suite, Pt. 3 (8:50)
05. Verano Reflections (Piazzolla/Meola) (4:10)
06. Night Club 1960 (5:44)
07. Tango II (5:33)
08. Bordel 1900 (4:30)
09. Milonga del Angel (3:44)
10. Last Tango for Astor (Al Di Meola) (6:20)

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