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Al Di Meola at the Soiled Dove Underground, Denver

Geoff Anderson By

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Not surprisingly, the rest of the band was equally talented, following Di Meola through the intricate arrangements, sometimes quirky time signatures and complex rhythms. Keyboard player Philippe Saisse is a veteran of Di Meola's bands, having played with him on some of the Classic Columbia recordings in the late '70s and early '80s. He doubled on marimba which provided an earthy contrast to the electricity generated by the rest of the band. Gumbi Ortiz on percussion is another long-time Di Meola crony, going back even further than Saisse. He spent much of his time on the congas and coloring the proceedings with the Latin tinge. Bassist Elias Tona and drummer Luis Alicea were spot on all night keeping the fusion drive tight and on the rails consistently.

Back in the vinyl days of the '70s, albums were less than 40 minutes long, so a 90 minute concert demands more material than a single album can supply. Di Meola dipped into some of his other albums of the era including Casino (Columbia 1978) from which he extracted "Dark Eyed Tango." He explained that much of the music for both Elegant Gypsy and Casino was composed around the same time. And, listening to the two albums today, it's apparent they could have easily been released as one double album. (Probably not as lucrative for artist and label, however.) He pulled "One Night Last June" from Kiss My Axe (Tomato, 1991) He also threw in a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" with Di Meola playing the Jimmy Page guitar part and Garr playing the Robert Plant vocal part on the violin. Brilliant! Besides the obvious elements of jazz, rock and Latin, Di Meola at times sounded a bit like a hopped up Baroque musician. That's another influence he's dabbled with over the years. His first solo album, Land of the Midnight Sun even featured a selection entitled, "Sarabande from Violin Sonata in B Major" by J. S. Bach.

Di Meola was in a good mood, and he should have been: he had just taken the fusion concept to a new level by getting married the day before while the band was in Las Vegas for a show. There must be a story behind that, but unfortunately, we didn't hear the details.

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