Genre-busting jazz, world fusion and flamenco guitar virtuoso Al Di Meola will bring his acclaimed “Opus Tour 2018” to the Canyon Santa Clarita for a headlining set on Friday, Sept. 21.
And while Di Meola’s most recent West Coast swings have presented his plugged-in prowess, he will perform (mostly) unplugged this time out, focusing on his latest album, the (mostly) acoustic “Opus.”
“The last two or three (tours) we resurrected the electric thing, but the acoustic thing really has me more motivated artistically now, and the new music fits my motivation,” Di Meola said on a call from his home in New Jersey. (He also has a home in Miami and spends a lot of time living and performing in Europe.)
“My newest compositions are based around the acoustic guitar, so ‘Opus’ is heavily acoustic,” he said.
As his many fans worldwide can attest, Di Meola, now 64, is a former Berklee College of Music student who first earned fame in the mid-1970s playing electric guitar with jazz-fusion pioneers Return to Forever, then broke out as a solo artist.
His catalog include more than 20 albums as a leader (from 1976 to present) and another dozen-plus classics as a collaborator (with John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia, Stanley Clarke and Jean-Luc Ponty, among others).
Di Meola’s longtime spot in the pantheon of modern guitar gods was reaffirmed in 2016, when he received the Montreal Jazz Festival’s Miles Davis Award.
But you don’t have to be an axe-slinger to appreciate this musician’s-musician’s music, or marvel at his fleet-fingered fretwork and creative use of effects. Di Meola’s performances are sonic adventures that can transport listeners to fascinating musical places, even if they have no clue how he’s doing it.
Not surprisingly, Di Meola played all the guitar parts (using both steel and nylon strings) on “Opus,” a musical tour de force with Mediterranean overtones (key composition “Cerreto Sannita” was inspired by his 2017 visit to the Italian village where his grandfather was born).
Di Meola was ably aided and abetted on the album, out in February, by keyboardist Kemuel Roig, drummer Richie Morales and percussionist Rhani Krija.
For this leg of his “Opus” tour, the guitarist is backed by Roig, his newest collaborator, from Cuba, and his longtime accordion player Flavio Beccalossi, from Italy. They produce a richly textured, beautifully nuanced sound some of his electric fans may not have heard from him.
“I’m really happy, because I think this trio is the strongest I’ve presented in the United States,” Di Meola said.
“As a composer and player, I’ve evolved,” he said. “I think a lot of the fusion stuff from the ’70s sounds like fusion stuff from the ’70s. I’m still trying to do new things. Even though we pull out some older stuff, I’m not doing that kick-ass metal-meets-jazz-rock thing. I just don’t have the same thrill for it I once did.
“My audience is a bit older now, too, and I think they’re going to like ‘Opus’ as much or more,” he said, “because, well – how many more years can you take listening to ‘Race with Devil on Spanish Highway’?”
Visit Di Meola’s website for more. [https://www.aldimeola.com/]
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Find the Canyon Santa Clarita on the ground floor of the Westfield Valencia Town Center. Get tickets at the box office 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, by phone at 888-645-5006, or via TicketMaster.com. For more info, visit WheremusicmeetstheSoul.com.
Stephen K. Peeples is a Grammy-nominated record producer and award-winning radio producer and journalist based in the Santa Clarita Valley. He has covered the SCV music scene for local media since 2004. Contact him via stephenkpeeples.com.