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Al Di Meola – Live At Montreux 1986/1993 (DVD Review)

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Live At Montreux features two of Al Di Meola‘s appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival – a solo acoustic performance from 1986, and a 1993 performance as part of the trio known as World Sinfonia. If you should follow the Amazon.com link on this page, you will notice that this DVD is also advertised with a 1989 performance featuring the Super Guitar Trio, consisting of Di Meola and fellow guitar virtuosos Larry Coryell and Bireli Lagrene. If that were true, this DVD would be worth the price for that performance alone, but I’m here to tell you that that just isn’t the case. Just like the front cover states, this DVD only contains the 1986 and 1993 performances, so I’m not sure what happened to cause Amazon and a few other sellers to advertise it this way. Possibly a last minute change of plans from the DVD producer?

As much as I love Di Meola‘s brilliant guitar work, this DVD left me largely unsatisfied. These two Montreux shows would have served better as bonus material included along with a real concert that featured Di Meola playing with a full band, and covering more of his whole body of work, both electric and acoustic. This DVD makes for a good supplemental source for the most devoted of Di Meola fans, but will likely leave the casual fan somewhat disappointed.

It is certainly no mystery, as the song title says, that Di Meola is on of the greatest jazz-fusion guitarists on the planet. His mastery of all styles of electric and acoustic guitar is simply astonishing. Simply put, he is a guitarist’s guitarist. The disappointing thing about these performances, especially the 1986 solo, acoustic show, is that I felt more like I was watching an acoustic guitar clinic than a concert. This performance focused mainly on songs from his Brazilian-themed acoustic album Cielo E Terra, which was recorded the previous year. Also included were a couple of songs from the explosive Passion, Grace & Fire album, which was recorded with Paco De Lucia and John McLaughlin in 1982. Sure, he often had my jaw hitting the floor in amazement at his speed and dexterity, especially considering that he uses a pick instead of his fingers, but I didn’t find it compelling enough to demand repeated viewings.

I found the 1989 show with World Sinfonia, which featured Chris Carrington on acoustic guitar and Arto Tuncboyacian on percussion and vocals, only slightly more satisfying. Al had the whole Sonny Crocket look going on at this show – with the white sport-coat over a white wife-beater tee-shirt, blue jeans, dark sunglasses, and a week’s worth of beard growth. The man looked cool – 80’s cool. This type of "world-music" sound that they focus on is definitely an acquired taste, which I enjoy as a nice change of pace sometimes, but after hearing the World Sinfonia version of the Return To Forever classic "No Mystery", I was seriously jonesing for some electric Di Meola, a la Elegant Gypsy.

The production quality of this DVD was very good, just like the rest of the Live At Montreux series of concert DVDs. The DTS and Dolby 5.1 surround mixes were a little underutilized for this type of performance, but they provided for a clear and dynamic sound. The picture was very sharp, but the camera angle choices were not always the best. The majority of shots were from the side of Di Meola, facing the back of his guitar in a manner that you could hardly see his picking or fretwork. This could have easily been avoided by placing the camera on his other side, which they did much less frequently. There were no special features included, although the accompanying booklet provided a nice Di Meola bio and career retrospective.

The better Montreux DVD to be put out would include the 1989 Super Guitar Trio performance and Di Meola‘s 1994 appearance that had him teamed up with bass-god Stanley Clarke and electric violin virtuoso Jean-Luc Ponty. Now that would be killer. After this and the other very similar One Of These Nights DVDs, Di Meola owes us (me!) a full-blown electric-fusion concert DVD. I’m waiting.

Set Lists

1986
Vertigo Shadow
Medley: 
– Orient Blue Suite
– Passion, Grace & Fire
– Atavism Of Twilight
– Enigma Of Desire
– Cielo E Terra
Etude
Capoiera

1993
Indigo
No Mystery
Tango Suite

Performance 7/10
Production 7/10

Read all of my DVD concert reviews at Roy’s Reviews

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About Paul Roy

  • http://trinimansblog.blogspot.com/ Triniman

    Paul – check out my Blogcritics review of his Feb. 2005 DVD, “One Of These Nights.”

    http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/01/15/023005.php

  • JR

    Speaking of Bireli Lagrene, either of you guys checked out this one?

  • http://home.comcast.net/~proy1/ Paul Roy

    I wasn’t aware of that Bireli Lagrene DVD. Thanks for the tip. My older brother was really into him and that is how I heard of him. The guy can really play.

  • SFC Ski

    I have only seen DiMeola as part of the famed Trio, and he really is mezmerizing to watch, I also think he is best suited to be playing with equals, it tempers him somwhat. I too would rather see him with a full band, say one made of Anthony Jackson, Stanley Clark, Chick Corea, and Buddy Miles.