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Jazz Reviews : Al Di Meola Finds Right Band at the Strand

May 06, 1992|DON HECKMAN

Al Di Meola's quest for the right band finally seems to have hit pay dirt.

His current ensemble, which performed at the Strand in Redondo Beach on Sunday night, is a state-of-the-art collection of contemporary musicians who enhance his playing and challenge him to stretch his abilities, both as a guitarist and a composer.

The net result was an exciting evening of music. Di Meola's improvising was so explosive that it sometimes seemed on the verge of bursting past the strings of his instrument. And multiplaned works such as "The Embrace," "Morocco" and "Oriana" demanded, and got, concentration and attention from the players and the audience.

The participation of Barry Miles--who worked with Di Meola even before the salad years of Return to Forever--provided the other side of a keyboard-guitar polarity that appears to be vital to Di Meola's music.

Another keyboardist, Rachel Z, was an equally powerful catalyst. In her solos, which were too infrequent, she revealed the skill, presence, charisma and sheer improvisational high voltage to suggest that she is a budding star in her own right. Bassist Tony Sherr, drummer Richie Morales and percussionist Gumbi Ortiz all were accurate and supportive with the complex, rhythmically shifting meters of Di Meola's compositions.

Di Meola had a smile on his face for a good part of the set, and it was no wonder. This is the kind of group he's been trying to find for years.

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