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From Europe to Elysium

Al Di Meola talks fusion music and its classical ties

Di Meola: “I remember Billy Joel saying after our show that he feels like quitting. It was a lull for him after ‘Piano man.’”
Di Meola: “I remember Billy Joel saying after our show that he feels like quitting. It was a lull for him after ‘Piano man.’”

From the streets of Jersey City came guitarist Al Di Meola, who toiled in the fusion group Return to Forever, at age 20, and eventually went solo, combining rock, jazz, classical, and electronic approaches. He plays the Music Box on June 15, touring behind his latest album, Elysium. While touring Europe, Di Meola took some questions over email.

Any memories of playing San Diego?

Video:

"Elysium"

...title track off of Al Di Meola's latest record

...title track off of Al Di Meola's latest record

“One time Return to Forever played in San Diego at the CBS records convention where all the artists from Billy Joel to Barbra Streisand to Earth Wind & Fire were there applauding and loving our performance. I remember Billy Joel saying after our show that he feels like quitting [laughs]. It was a lull for him after ‘Piano Man.’ Then he took off, and Chick [Corea] broke up [Return to Forever].”

Fusion’s had a hard row to hoe over the years. How have attitudes toward your music changed?

“Thank God for Europe, where fans were brought up on classical music and love acoustic music far more than in the States, so when I developed my writing and took on more world-music elements into my compositions, the appreciation was felt on a much bigger scale.”

How have your musical chops grown over the years?

Past Event

Al Di Meola

  • Wednesday, June 15, 2016, 9 p.m.
  • Music Box, 1337 India Street, San Diego
  • $30 - $75

“I don’t focus as much as I did in my 20s on velocity of technique, since I’m more into the larger picture, compositionally. However, one would need well-developed technique to be able to write these long-form, complex tunes.”

How did you pick and mix musical approaches for Elysium?

“I needed to write to stay sane. It was my form of therapy to get my mind off of a divorce I was going through. The pain was channeled into my writing down some ideas that turned into some different interesting directions. As the writing phase went on, so did my outlook of seeing the light at the end of a dark tunnel.”

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Di Meola: “I remember Billy Joel saying after our show that he feels like quitting. It was a lull for him after ‘Piano man.’”
Di Meola: “I remember Billy Joel saying after our show that he feels like quitting. It was a lull for him after ‘Piano man.’”

From the streets of Jersey City came guitarist Al Di Meola, who toiled in the fusion group Return to Forever, at age 20, and eventually went solo, combining rock, jazz, classical, and electronic approaches. He plays the Music Box on June 15, touring behind his latest album, Elysium. While touring Europe, Di Meola took some questions over email.

Any memories of playing San Diego?

Video:

"Elysium"

...title track off of Al Di Meola's latest record

...title track off of Al Di Meola's latest record

“One time Return to Forever played in San Diego at the CBS records convention where all the artists from Billy Joel to Barbra Streisand to Earth Wind & Fire were there applauding and loving our performance. I remember Billy Joel saying after our show that he feels like quitting [laughs]. It was a lull for him after ‘Piano Man.’ Then he took off, and Chick [Corea] broke up [Return to Forever].”

Fusion’s had a hard row to hoe over the years. How have attitudes toward your music changed?

“Thank God for Europe, where fans were brought up on classical music and love acoustic music far more than in the States, so when I developed my writing and took on more world-music elements into my compositions, the appreciation was felt on a much bigger scale.”

How have your musical chops grown over the years?

Past Event

Al Di Meola

  • Wednesday, June 15, 2016, 9 p.m.
  • Music Box, 1337 India Street, San Diego
  • $30 - $75

“I don’t focus as much as I did in my 20s on velocity of technique, since I’m more into the larger picture, compositionally. However, one would need well-developed technique to be able to write these long-form, complex tunes.”

How did you pick and mix musical approaches for Elysium?

“I needed to write to stay sane. It was my form of therapy to get my mind off of a divorce I was going through. The pain was channeled into my writing down some ideas that turned into some different interesting directions. As the writing phase went on, so did my outlook of seeing the light at the end of a dark tunnel.”

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