Guitarist Al Di Meola first rose to prominence as a blazing jazz fusion artist before his playing matured and he began to conquer other styles, such as acoustic Latin music. Born on July 22, 1954 in Jersey City, New Jersey, Di Meola briefly studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston during the early '70s before accepting a job replacing guitarist Bill Connors in fusion trailblazers Return to Forever (a group that also included monster instrumentalists keyboardist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke, and drummer Lenny White) in 1974. It was with Di Meola that Return to Forever enjoyed their greatest commercial success, as such releases as 1974's Where Have I Known Before, 1975's No Mystery, and 1976's Romantic Warrior cracked the U.S. Top 40 before Di Meola jumped ship to launch a solo career.
What followed remains some of the finest jazz fusion guitar-based recordings ever: 1976's Land of the Midnight Sun, 1977's Elegant Gypsy (which would eventually earn gold certification in the U.S.), and Casino, plus 1979's Splendido Hotel. Di Meola then united with fellow guitar greats John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía for 1980's Friday Night in San Francisco. Throughout the '80s and '90s, he racked up numerous accolades (including earning yearly top honors in Guitar Player magazine polls), kept on issuing solo releases on a regular basis, and played with others, including releases by Stomu Yamashta, Paul Simon, Stanley Jordan, and David Matthews, as well as further work with such former bandmates as Corea, Clarke, de Lucía, and McLaughlin.
During the '90s, Di Meola turned his back almost entirely on fusion to concentrate more on acoustic-based world music, as evidenced by such releases as World Sinfonia, Di Meola Plays Piazzolla, and Heart of the Immigrants, among others. During the 2000s, Di Meola continued this eclectic approach with releases like 2003's Revisited, 2006's Consequence of Chaos, 2007's Diabolic Inventions and Seduction for Solo Guitar, Vol. 1: Music of Astor Piazzolla, and 2008's live album He and Carmen with flutist Eszter Horgas. In 2011, Di Meola delivered the Latin and world music-infused studio album Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody, featuring bassist Charlie Haden and Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba.
The lushly textured fusion effort Elysium followed in 2015. Two years later, Di Meola delivered the concert album Morocco Fantasia, recorded live at the Mawazine Festival in Rabat, Morocco. Along with Di Meola's band, the show featured guest appearances by Moroccan musicians oud player Said Chraibi, violinist Abdellah Meri, and percussionist Tarik Ben Ali. ~ Greg Prato