This is a 2009 review
I gotta admit that I never listened to Al Dimeola much and that he never got my attention, except the long play he recorded with Paco de Lucía and John Mclaughlin, but this last Saturday within the “Festival de Guitarra de Las Palmas” he was playing in my town and I had tickets to see him live
As always, we reached the hall with plenty of time. We left the car in the hall parking lot and very soon we were at the entrance of the Alfredo Kraus Auditory.
This time, row 6, seats 21 to 27. The hall was crowded. I guess it was a sold out concert. The vision of the stage was not so good as it was when Madeleine Peyroux played live here, but you know, I can’t complaint..
The show started off with only ten minutes delay, just right after Al Dimeola introduced us the band members: Gumbi Ortiz on percussion, Víctor Miranda on bass guitar, Meter Kaszas on drums and Peo Alfonsi on guitar.
At first I got a bit surprised when I saw Al Dimeola and Peo Alfonsi on stage with Spanish guitars and from the very first track they played I found an important Spanish musical flavour that, in my opinion, reamained througout the whole concert.
I did have a perfect view of Al Dimeola and Peo Alfonsi, but not from the rest of the band
Al, used an Hermanos Conde guitar, amplified –as I read on Internet- with a Schoepps C-530 condenser microphone and a RMC piezo pickup.
The US born guitarist presented his most recent recording “World Sinfonia” –a bit pretentious title IMHO to be his first acoustic fusion ensemble album-, that combined Latin, African, Tango influences but sounded to me more Flamenco, more Paco de Lucía than Carlos Gardel’s tangos. Dry, fast and powerful guitar strumming filled up the hall with that “typical flamenco/Hispanic” sound with the collaboration of percusionist Gumbi Ortiz’s perfect use of the cajón flamenco.
Since the very beggining of the concert we saw an oustanding guitar technic. The way Al Dimeola plays guitar is Amazing folks. He is a virtuoso out of any question. I also found chemical between Dimeola and Peo Alfonsi, apart of many, many hours of rehearsal. Their accuracy executing duo strumming was perfect, it seemed more the precision you get from a sophisticated musical software. Peo Alfonsi dindn’t have a single ocassion to show us his skills, because he was all the time playing rythm guitar while Dimeola used his left hand fingers on the fretboard at the speed of light, reaching the last frets of it, to get there a remarkable, clean, and pure tone, using a pick with the right hand, to obtain a potent, strong and mighty riff
Al didn’t use many fx’s . His Spanish guitar tone was clean, or with bit of distortion or delay and another fx that sounded like Calypso, like when you see those black men that hit barrels as if they were drums, when you arrrive to any Caribbean port.
The show went on with one track after another, ‘till we reached the end of it after nearly one hour and a half.
I found that Al didn’t give any space, nor freedom to any of his band mates. I had the feeling that they were there, to simply execute a job they had been paid for and end of the story. The star was Al Dimeola and nobody else was allowed to play out of a script that the US born guitarist had set with spartan severity. Only Gumbi Ortiz that –as Al Dimeola told us- had been playing with him during the last twenty years, was allowed to make one percussion solo. I missed Peo Alfonsi playing guitar freely.
So folks, an intimate, precious, baroque concert, with a high and remarkable technical character, long tracks with differents tempos, rythms and cadence that made it dificult for me to understand it. Al Dimeola had no soul, no feeling to me. Sometimes I saw myself trying not to fall asleep, sometimes I even thought about fallen asleep by I felt embarrassed. How far is Al Dimeola from the poetry and soulful feeling Madeleyne Peyroux or Tuck and Patti deliver in their live shows.
I’m guilty, it might be my fault that I never listened to Dimeola in depht because when the concert ended, the audience stood up furiously clapping and I…..stood up as well, but for sure, when he came out for an encore I prayed Zeus, Father of the Gods that there would be no more than two bonus tracks.
I hope to be a bit more lucky this next Friday……Larry Carlton at 21.00 hours and Diane Schuur on Saturday at the same time. I haven’t heard a word about this US jazz singer but it seems she is coming with a 1940/1950 jazz repertoire