Al Di Meola: Cruisin'
Al Di Meola (electric guitar)
Tour De Force "Live" (CBS CK 38373)
Victor Godsey (keyboards), Anthony Jackson (bass), Steve Gadd (drums), Mingo Lewis (percussion).
Composed by Jan Hammer.
Recorded: Philadelphia, PA, February 4, 1982
Rating: 89/100 (learn more)
1982's Tour De Force "Live" is a hit or miss affair. The same can be said for most of Al Di Meola's career output. He has been part of some of the best fusion music ever played. But he has also been guilty of releasing some of the most indulgent shit you are ever likely to hear under the guise of "fusion guitar hero." That's just the way it is. It is no accident that the strongest cut on this album was written by Jan Hammer. When it came to fusion music there weren't many composers who could latch onto a jazz-rock groove the way he could. The studio version of Hammer's "Cruisin'" (whose original title was "Tri-Oval") first appeared on Di Meola's Electric Rendezvous a year earlier.
There are elements of Hammer's composition that point in the direction of his seminal TV soundtrack for Miami Vice that would appear on the scene just two years later. The melody is a simple but ingratiating hook. That is part of the genius of Hammer. His music starts in a very simple place and branches off into different and interesting directions. This allows for instant identification and a resolution when the music inevitably returns to a familiar place. Di Meola and Hammer play much of the song in unison. There is a midsection that includes audience participation, which I don't care for. But it is quickly dispatched in favor of a Hammer and Di Meola call and response in which both players show off their blues chops. The duel leads into a restatement of the theme as the crowd goes wild at song's end. This is far from the best stuff Jan Hammer was ever a part of. But it is somewhere near the top of what Di Meola has done. That is not so much a knock on Di Meola, who is an important figure, as it is more a statement about Hammer's capabilities.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky