It was winter 1980. Three superlative guitarists - the American Al Di Meola, the Spaniard Paco deLucia and the Englishman John McLaughlin - were assembled on a stage in California for a feast of six-string acrobatics. "Friday Night in San Francisco" has since become the stuff of legends. Guitar fans still consider it a very special event. a highlight.
Nearly a quarter of century later, one of those virtuosos, Al Di Meola, has treated his fans to another golden moment. This time, it wasn't in the shimering west coast metropolis in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, but in the baroque German city of Ludwigsburg, in the stylish surroundings of the "Scala" cultural center - part cinema, part auditorium.
A event as special as "One Of These Nights" lets loose unimagined creative forces, and so, that night in May, he gave breathtaking concert which will long remain in the memories of the musicians who took part and the people in audience.
Happy and relaxed, Al Di Meola took the stage, and right from the start, with an almost imperceptble smile, he deftly conjured up the most amazing runs and gorgeous melodies. Concentration rather than tension, and devotion rather than routine are tangible in his playing - as well as that unique mixture of coolness and fire which made the young Al Di Meola famous in the seventies and which characterizes his groundbreaking albums. Speed is not an end in itself for the New Jersey musician, who combines masterful virtuosity with perfect feeling, and he maintains a lively, refreshingly democratic exchange of ideas with his fellow musicians.
Al Di Meola assembled a thoroughly excellent group of musicians for this review of the highlights of career spanning almost three decades - a fantastic combination of romantic chamber music, traditional Latin American music and free Jazz, constantly switching between off-the-cuff improvisation and intricate set-pieces. Time and again the musicians manage to vary familiar pieces with surprising rhythm changes and brilliant soundscapes.
Pianist Mario Parmisano not only shows impressive dexterity and lyrical sensitivity, but can also really heat up his bandmates with powerful chord play.
Drummer Ernie Adams and percussionist Gumbi Ortiz are a rhythm section with provides Al Di Meola with all the variety and passion of South American drumming. Ortiz in particular, a long-standing member of Al Di Meola's band, joins the guitar wizard time and again in furious drum/guitar dialogs which are among the highlights of the concert. Last but not least, the Sturcz String Quartet greatly enrich the group's sound. The Hungarians not only demonstrate melodic skill, they also provide surprising rhythmic accents.
The audience, which greeted Al Di Meola and his band with warm, friendly applause, gave them a standing ovation, turning the atmosphere at the auditorium into almost that of a sports stadium by the end of the concert.
IN the small hours, over a last drink at the hotel before going to bed, Gumbi Ortiz admitted, "This really was one of these nights", A magical night.
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