Friday Night in San Francisco

Friday Night in San Francisco

One of the definitive live albums of the fusion era, Friday Night in San Francisco is, ironically, all acoustic, and the crowd greets Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco de Lucía pretty much like rock stars. This was the trio’s second incarnation, in fact: McLaughlin and de Lucía started out with Larry Coryell in a unit billed as Meeting of the Spirits, but by the time of this concert in December 1980, Di Meola, formerly with Chick Corea’s Return to Forever, had come on board. Much of the repertoire was known to fans of Di Meola’s solo output: “Mediterranean Sundance” from Elegant Gypsy, “Fantasia Suite” from Casino, and “Short Tales of the Black Forest,” a Corea composition from Di Meola’s 1976 debut, Land of the Midnight Sun, performed as a duet with the piano great himself. Here it is McLaughlin in Corea’s place, prompting playful “Pink Panther” quotations and a rousing blues-rock detour. When the lineup regrouped in the studio for the 1983 release Passion, Grace & Fire, the focus was on music for the full trio. Friday Night, by contrast, is mostly duos, including the McLaughlin-de Lucía showstopper “Frevo Rasgado” by Brazilian master Egberto Gismonti. McLaughlin’s “Guardian Angel,” one of two trio cuts, was not played live—it was done in the studio roughly six months later, directly anticipating the sound of Passion, Grace & Fire. Decades later, Di Meola put out the bonus package Saturday Night in San Francisco, including solo guitar features from all three players.

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