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Al Di Meola: Friday Night at Olive Garden

Al Di Meola

The legendary shred maestro—best known for his work as a solo artist and as a member of Return to Forever and other high-profile, hot-shot collabs—drops by to chat with Cory about his new epic full-length, Twentyfour. It features “sixteen brand-new compositions and they’re all very involved. I hope I don’t have to do this again.”

One of Di Meola’s biggest projects is, of course, the guitar trio he shared with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía and their thrilling 1981 record, Friday Night in San Francisco, which elevated the acoustic guitar ensemble to the level of high art. Di Meola shares the behind-the-scenes stories of that tour and the 2022 archival release from the next night’s concert, Saturday Night in San Francisco. He calls the ensemble’s dynamic a “real healthy competition” and explains, “I knew I was up against two guys who were relentless in their delivery of phenomenal ideas. When they finished a solo, it was like, ’Oh my god, what am I gonna come up with.”

No chat with Di Meola, who famously opened up his kitchen in the post-lockdown part of the pandemic, would be complete without a survey of Southern Italian food. Why is sfogliatelle the maestro’s favorite pastry, and where does he get his? If he’s on tour and there’s nowhere to eat but an Olive Garden, what’s his order? And much, much more.

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