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Al Di Meola

Al Di Meola is something of a conundrum. From his name and his music you might guess he might hail from the Mediterranean instead of New Jersey. From his style you might think he grew up studying Classical guitar and moved on to Jazz instead of The Beatles, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix. And from hearing his technique you might suspect that he had about a dozen fingers instead of the usual 10.

But he did grow up in Jersey and he did listen to The Beatles and he only has 10 fingers. His debut in 1974 as part of Chick Corea's band Return to the Future was as much a surprise to Di Meola as to those who heard his playing. The 20 year old stepped onto the stage and shocked the audience with his unique style and exceptional technique. Few guitarists in the Jazz world or elsewhere can compete with this precision and speed, and while these things make him an impressive player his style was always the thing that really defined him.

Unlike most Jazz performers who study the standards and Bop so much that their playing is infused with its vocabulary, Di Meola's interests were always exceptionally varied and consequently so is his playing. While he certainly can play Bop with all the rest of them, his heart has always been in the world of Fusion jazz, a genre which he helped define.

His love of The Beatles and other bands along with his love of the expressiveness of Jazz can still be heard in his music today. His earlier work is, in my opinion, more interesting. He's mellowed a bit in recent years, but his playing is still beautiful and powerful. The Infinite Desire is a mix of cultures and sounds, ranging from Fusion to acoustic missives, to sounds from the Middle East. One track even features guitarist Steve Vai, so that might give you a clue as to its scope.

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