Paco DeLucia and Al Di Meola
It is a moment in my life I look back at in wonder. A couple of decades ago, I went along with a girlfriend of the time and her roommate to her roommates boyfriend’s house simply so she could pick something up. The boyfriend lived with a couple of brothers or friends at the time. We were just supposed to be there a for moment and then continue on with our planned evening. As I waited with the brothers or friends in the living room and got to talking I mentioned I was studying music. They immediately got interested and then one of them took me straight to his room and said sit down, close your eyes and listen to this. I think he had recently upgraded his stereo system, so he may have been particularly excited, but he played for me at a very high volume the “Friday night in San Francisco” album of Paco DeLucia, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin. Such an extraordinary work of art. As I sunk down into the beanbag and closed my eyes I was immediately struck by the depth, the warmth, the virtuosity, this incredible sound and style of music making I had never heard before. The extraordinary comfort and control one has to have to improvise like that while listening to and cooperating with other musicians is astounding. It didn’t really seem possible. This is on the top of my list of concerts I wish I had been at. The sheer technique, musicianship and cooperation is outstanding.
The first piece on the album is Mediterranean Sundance. At that point in my life I had mostly only listened to hard rock as a teen and then switched abruptly to classical in college. I had not heard anything like that before. I really was a classical music snob at that point in my studies, without that shock to the system introduction to this whole other genre of music by this incredibly generous stranger with whom I had only talked with briefly and then never saw again, I may have never fallen in love with so much other music. Had he been feeling slightly less jovial and generous that evening, I don’t think he would have bothered offering to introduce to some stranger some of his favorite music on his stereo in his room. I think it is just such chance encounters that opens us up to whole new avenues and interests in life, if we are present enough to notice them.
Back in the old days, before the internet, I spent way too much money on recordings and scores of my favorite music, it was the only thing I wanted to buy. I had stopped doing that some time around the mid nineties. Then one day several years ago I had decided to try to do a piano version of the ‘Mediterranean sundance’ for the fun of it. I like playing as fast as possible so that was an obvious choice to try to do an own interpretation of. When I searched online for a little help with transcribing it I was shocked to find someone had actually transcribed the entire concert. I placed my order for the book and found myself rushing to the mailbox every day until it came. A beautiful labor of love that someone successfully transcribed that thunderous display of sixteenth and thirty-second notes.
I kick myself for thinking I still had plenty of time to catch Paco de Lucia live, he had come by Uppsala for the annual guitar festival in the autumn of 2013 and I had let life get in the way of making sure I got tickets to that. There is perhaps no other musician who breathes life into, and creates a pulse one can just sink into and enjoy the rapturous Spanish infused melodies and rhythms like Mr. Paco de Lucia. May he rest in peace, as his name is constantly invoked as the greatest guitarist ever.