Monday, May 03, 2021

Al Di Meola / John McLaughlin / Paco De Lucia ‎– Friday Night In San Francisco (Columbia Records, 1981; CD re-issue, 1997)

With jazz fusion on the wane in the United States in 1981, and fans turning to the neo-bop sounds of young acoustic jazz musicians like Wynton Marsalis, three guitarists hatched a bold plan. Ditch the amplification, and develop intricate but still crowd pleasing music for two or three acoustic guitars. John McLaughlin, Paco DeLucia and Al DiMiola took this on the road for a well received two month tour, including a stop at the Warfield Auditorium in San Francisico which makes up most of this disc. The music consists of three dueling guitarists, mashing up flamenco, jazz and more, to a crowd that is eating it up and begging for more. According to the liner notes, this album sold in excess of two million copies, so it must have broken out of the Jazz and ethnic music ghettos quite quickly. All three players made their bones elsewhere, notably McLaughlin with Miles Davis and The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and DiMiola with Return to Forever and some glossy solo projects. DeLucia took the more traditional route and he really scores when the music drifts into flamenco territory. Even though this is a recording if totally acoustic duos and trios, you can’t prevent the machismo and competitiveness from creeping in, and there are sections where they are playing at impossibly high tempos, slamming the strings loudly and gesturing to the crowd for responses that are missed in the audio medium. It is the slower and more melodic passages that have the biggest impact, with the guitars supporting and interacting with one another rather than straining to make some form of acoustic fusion the results are much more successful. The remastering on the Legacy compact disc sounds excellent with a wide soundstage encompassing the three musicians, and the liner notes include a new essay from Bill Milkowski and some photographs from the concert. Friday Night In San Francisco -

Send comments to Tim.