Back on the 27th, I got a chance to catch the guitarist Al di Meola at Water Street Music Hall. The last time I saw AD was back in the 80s while at the University of Chicago where he played a show with John McLaughlin and Paco De Lucia after the release of their Friday Night in San Francisco album. Opening for them was Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, who appeared at the 2006 Rochester International Jazz Festival last year. Both sets were great and, except for a few glitches with the sound and some of the ambient noise in the hall, Water Street appeared to do a pretty good job putting on the jazz (albeit toward the rock end of the spectrum).
Al di Meola and his band were toward the beginning of a tour for his new album The Consequences of Chaos and there was much of that album in supply during the evening, along with some others from Casino and his other 20+ albums, as well as an quieter, acoustic set on nylon and steel string guitars. Sticking mostly to a beautiful hardbody electric, AD did not disappoint those there who were there to see his guitar pyrotechnics. It was an interesting crowd. Di Meola is a guitar god, so it skewed toward a sausage fest, there were few women in attendance, and we were mostly quite a ways past 40 (myself included). There was a group of apparent AD fan club members at the front of the crowd where I was who were more like a group of tweenage girls at a Teddy Geiger show.
My path to the AD gig bears some further exposition. I was there as a guest conguero and all-around percussionist, Gumbi Ortiz, who has been playing with Di Meola for 17 years. Gumbi has recently released an album, Miami (see an All Music Guide review of the album here) as a leader. His promoter ran across the blog out there contacted me to see if I'd like to hear the album and, later, to see the show. He put me on the guest list, which got me in gratis and secured a seat in the front row with the members of the aforementioned fan club and some other "VIPs". I talked with Gumbi between the sets and found him a gracious and interesting man. He is also a fantastic percussionist. Gumbi has Rochester ties (as do so many musicians who come to town)—his grandmother came straight to Rochester from Cuba. Although Di Meola clearly "rules," I noticed he turned to his long time collaborator Gumbi more than once for guidance. There was a lot of interaction between AD and Gumbi as musicians, and between Gumbi and the rest of the band. In fact at the end of the show, after one encore had been played (without the unnecessary clapfest), when the clapfest for another encore began (Rochester crowds never seem to be satisfied), Al looked over to Gumbi with a "should we?" look. Gumbi shook his head no, I think so that they could get on with the inevitable CD signing for the fans; it was already pretty late.
In some ways, this experience shows one way in which this blog opens up paths to new experiences in my life. In my "regular" life, this opportunity wouldn't have come my way. I also had a chance to chat before the show and between JFJO and AD with another Rochesterian, Steve Kiener (I never did get your name while at the show, but have since figured it out since). He works with the award-winning drummer Steve Gadd, who has played with Eric Clapton and countless others (including AD) over the past 30+ years (and apparently also lives in Rochester), in developing his new website. I hope to hear from Steve some time, as I'd like to continue our conversation.
While I'm perfectly willing to pay my own freight, it was nice to have a bit of the VIP treatment (a green id bracelet and reserved seats in the front row just beneath the stage) for all this work I do on Jazz@Rochester. I'll keep the bracelet as a souvenir of the serendipity.