By Andy J. Gordon
Al Di Meola is in the middle of an extensive acoustic tour promoting Opus, his 2018 album release. He stopped with his trio at the Saban Theatre in Los Angeles for a two-set virtuoso performance on September 22, 2018. Jordan Rudess, best known for his amazing keyboard work with progressive rock group Dream Theater, opened the show with a solo piano set.
Rudess veered from his usual sonic explorations on electronic keyboards for a set of classical music, classic rock tributes and Dream Theater medleys, all on a beautiful Steinway grand piano. Rudess explained that he wanted to test his boundaries and get out of his comfort zone. The only time he played more familiar-sounding music was when he used his iPad equipped with some of his proprietary software to play some amplified, electronic blues riffs. Back at the grand piano, Rudess played a few more classical and prog-rock melodies before closing out with Dream Theater’s “The Dance of Eternity.”
Di Meola is one of the most respected and awarded jazz guitarists in the world. His style crosses genres from jazz to rock to flamenco to classical to world music. The brilliant musicians joining him on this tour are Fausto Beccalossi on accordion and Kemuel Roig on grand piano. During the transcendent Saban Theatre show, the trio played several tracks from the Opus album including the flamenco-influenced “Milonga Noctiva (Wandering in the Dark),” the soothing “Ava’s Dream Sequence Lullaby” (written for his daughter) and the fiery “Broken Heart.”
Late in the second set, Di Meola talked about the life-changing time he spent in Cerreto Sannita, the Italian village near Naples where his grandfather grew up before emigrating to the U.S. Di Meola discovered many relatives there and wrote music that inspired him while in the village. The trio ended the set with “Cerreto Sannita,” a song on the Opus album that he named for his ancestral home.
Di Meola recorded an acoustic Beatles tribute album in 2013 called All Your Life: A Tribute to the Beatles. The trio played beautiful versions of “Because” and “She’s Leaving Home” from that album. Di Meola and the band closed the encore with an amazing “Mediterranean Sundance” from his Elegant Gypsy album.
Di Meola has an incredible level of musicianship. His tone, precision and beautiful style of playing made the intimate show at the Saban Theatre a memorable experience. The United States leg of the Al Di Meola Opus Tour 2018 concludes on September 30 in Scottsdale, Arizona, and will travel across Europe through the end of 2018.