A Conversation with Al Di Meola: A Tribute to The Beatles and a Night at Ronnie Scott’s

Internationally acclaimed jazz fusion musician, producer and composer Al Di Meola is regularly voted amongst one of the best guitarist in the world and in a career that spans almost forty years, he has become a legend in both acoustic and electric spheres, creating a six-stringed voice uniquely his own.

On 10th June he appeared at the iconic Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Soho performing his fourth and final show in two days in the UK as part of a world tour to promote his new project, a Beatles tribute album – All Your Life (Beatles Tribute). A rare and exclusive opportunity to join Di Meola in conversation before the show provided an insight into “dream come true”, the new album which he claimed to have been wanting to produce for “twenty years”.

Whilst the complex rhythmic sound of jazz fusion may seem a world away from the music of Lennon and McCartney, Di Meola attributes his love of guitar to the Beatles and other iconic bands of the “highly creative” ‘60s. All Your Life sees Di Meola put his own acoustic voice to fourteen well-loved tracks by the ‘Fab Four’ by literally following in their footsteps to the iconic studios at Abbey Road. He described the sound achieved there as “fatter, bigger, more lush” than that produced in any other studio he had worked in. So much so that after attempts to complete the album in the States fell short of the mind blowing Abbey Road recordings, he returned to London to finish the album in full using the analogue sound.

 

The live show saw Di Meola, joined on stage by Fausto Beccalossi (accordion), Peo Alfonsi (second guitar) and Peter Kaszas (drums/percussion), perfectly translate these carefully crafted tracks and showcase their world-class talent.

But what would have been the thoughts of loyalist Beatles fans? ‘Beatlemania’ may have passed but Di Meola acknowledged he was entering “sacred territory”. The main change the songs experienced when shifting genres was to become acoustic instrumentals, a bold move given the importance of the lyrics, which Di Meola said “evoked imagination”. This adjustment explains why Di Meola chose not to cover highly lyric-dependent tracks like Come Together, in favour of the more melodic like Eleanor Rigby. The challenge was to create covers which incorporated the complex rhythmic technique and intellect of jazz fusion whilst retaining the pop melodies which gave the original tracks their character and sentiment. The reaction of the late night audience at Ronnie Scott’s could leave no doubt that he carried it off with great success.

 

The great ensemble closed the final show of the London stretch of their tour with some infectious crowd pleasers. Original, fast-pace, Latin-jazz fusion tracks concluded a fantastic night at Ronnie’s.

Author: Rachel Hannah

Rachel is a music correspondant for Performance Reviewed. She enjoys seeking out the best live acts from intimate local ciruits to stadium fillers and everything else in between.