“I never thought I’d still be here after 40 years, but that’s another story,” joked legendary guitarist Al DiMeola, as his band delivered a 2 score anniversary celebration of the classic Elegant Gypsy album.
The packed house was treated to a 2 hour show, roughly divided into “electric” and “acoustic” sets, with the opening team of DiMeola with Elias Tona/b, Luis Alicea/dr, Gumbi Ortiz/perc and the recent addition, rising star violinist Evan Garr almost the exact same band as last year’s apotheosis of a combo, with the sole replacement of keyboardist Philippe Saisse, who has been replaced by Phil Magallanes.
The intricate, aggressive and hard hitting pieces such as “One Night,” “Race with the Devil on Spanish Highway” and “Senor Mouse” all featured eye popping and incendiary guitar work by the leader, with Garr’s swaying violin work serving as a perfect foil. While the new keyboardist was exemplary in soloing and supplying the guitarist with red meat chords for digesting through his ax, the absence of Saisse’s melodious touch, as well as his long term association with the band in directing the high speed traffic, was felt. No fault on anyone, it’s just hard to find a replacement for the band’s Phil Jackson, someone who’s been with the the leader since DiMeola first undid his top three shirt buttons. The result was readings of material such as “Flight Over Rio” that were more metallic than melodic.
A take of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” with Garr’s violin taking the place of Roger Plant’s voice as well as a melodic segue into “Midnight Tango” showed promise of what the new conglomeration can achieve.
Things got more artistically sensuous when DiMeola sat down for a series of solo acoustic guitar pieces which included an Iberian read of The Beatles’ “And I Love Her” as well as an intimate “Ava’s Dream Sequence Lullabye.” Garr returned for the evening’s high point, a pair of gypsy caravan’d “Milonga Del Angel” and “Mediterranean Sundance” which mixed passionate pickings with flavorful harmonies.
The evening closed with DiMeola and company plugging in and hitting hard with the Return to Forever chestnut “Medieval Overture” along with the frenetic and frantic “Chiquilan” with the encore of “Egyptian Danza” filling the air with an exotic mix of nostalgia for the heady 70 fusion days and encouragement of things to come from the Romantic Warrior.
Upcoming shows at the Canyon Club, Saban and Rose include Al DiMeola 09/17, Marshal Tucker Band 09/08&13, George Thorogood 09/22, Pablo Cruise w/ Grant Geissman 09/22-23, The Drifters 10/14-15 and Robben Ford & Stanley Jordan 10/21