Written By Braddon S. Williams

Al Di Meola: Gypsy

Al Di Meola’s Elegant Gypsy (1977) was an exceptional jazz fusion instrumental album that covered a lot of ground in both electric and acoustic guitar styles.

Di Meola could play faster than anyone I had heard at that time, but he always sounded both classy and passionate. He wasn’t playing fast just for the sake of speed.

His compositions were full of great melodic ideas and transitions, allowing the rhythm section and keyboards to shine as much as he did.

Big time talent was all over Elegant Gypsy: Steve Gadd and Lenny White on drums, Jan Hammer and Barry Miles on keyboards, and a stunning duet/duel on flamenco guitar with Paco de Lucia on the track Mediterranean Sundance.

My personal favorite songs were Race With Devil On Spanish Highway, Flight Over Rio, Elegant Gypsy Suite, and the awesome acoustic track Lady Of Rome, Sister Of Brazil.

Di Meola eventually gave up electric guitar for many years to concentrate on acoustic, classical, and Latin styles. In 2006 he finally returned to the electric and I’m glad he did, because he just has magnificent talent, tone, and a sound that is all his own.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Stanley Clarke: School Days

Another pioneering virtuoso bassist from the jazz fusion explosion of the 1970’s, Stanley Clarke rose to fame with Return To Forever and also put out a string of excellent solo albums. Probably the best known (and my personal favorite) was School Days (1976).

The song School Days kicked off the album with one of the best bass riffs of all time and featured Clarke’s ripping bass solo with blinding speed and plenty of slap ‘n pop.

Desert Song was an acoustic number with Clarke on standup bass and John McLaughlin on guitar.

The closing track, Life Is Just A Game, showcased Clarke on a brief lead vocal, plus an insane guitar solo from Icarus Johnson and an equally thrilling bass solo where Clarke matched the guitarist’s speed and intensity note for note. Some of the drummers on the album included Steve Gadd and Billy Cobham, and George Duke contributed some keyboards.

School Days is a great album from one of the best bass players in the game.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Weather Report: Heavy Weather

Weather Report made this list on the strength of their 1977 release, Heavy Weather.

More specifically, Weather Report is here due to the bass playing of one Jaco Pastorius, who was the bass playing equivalent of Jimi Hendrix.

Pastorius played fretless bass, and in a band that included Wayne Shorter on saxophone and Joe Zawinul on keyboards (2 alumni from Miles Davis bands), he still managed to stand out as the most valuable player.

Jazz fusion was in its golden age when this album came out, and the leadoff track, Birdland, was one of the biggest songs ever in that genre. Other classics included Teen Town, A Remark You Made, and Havona.

https://youtu.be/rI87xvv-OJE

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind