Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco De Lucia: Saturday Night In San Francisco

In a previously unreleased sequel to the landmark Friday Night In San Francisco, the trio play with the same flair on different material


The now legendary Friday Night In San Francisco was released in 1981 and captured the above guitar trio at their show at the Warfield Theatre the previous December. As it happens, the following night’s show was also recorded, with the tapes going unheard for decades. But they are now being released for the first time on the aptly titled Saturday Night In San Francisco.

The album opens with an introduction from concert promoter Bill Graham, who explains the format of the evening, with the trio playing together but also performing solo pieces. In contrast with the previous night however, the setlist is entirely different. The first song, Splendido Sundance, is one of Di Meola’s pieces from his release of the previous year, Splendido Hotel, with the three guitarists recreating Meola’s layered acoustic playing. Each guitarist can be picked out immediately, with De Lucia’s rapid, fuzzy finger picking on classical guitar, McLaughlin’s cleaner, fusion-style nylon string and Meola’s blisteringly fast picked lines on steel string.

For the next three tracks, the trio take it in turns to perform unaccompanied, with McLaughlin going first and giving a unique and improvisatory rendition of One Word from The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Birds Of Fire. Following this, Meola performs Trilogy Suite, which starts with an extremely fast Spanish section that morphs into a slow classical piece. The final solo track is De Lucia’s Monasterio De Sal, an uptempo and intricate composition which he would go on to record as a duet with bass for his release the following year, Solo Quiero Caminar.

For the penultimate track, the trio perform The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Meeting Of The Spirits, with the ominous droning intro given a unique feel on acoustic guitar instead of psychedelic fusion ensemble; the trio improvise around the theme while adding a flamenco twist. They close with a lush and delicate arrangement of Luiz Bonfá’s and Antônio Carlos Jobim’s Orpheo Negro, or Black Orpheus, which was originally titled Manhã De Carnaval for the film soundtrack for which it was written, and that has become a true classic, being recorded by dozens of musicians such as Quincy Jones, Chet Atkins and Carly Simon.

The recording from the previous night has become a seminal acoustic guitar album, and much of what makes it so special is also present on this album, such as the musicianship and interplay between the trio. While it may not – as a second turn through now familiar territory – reach the same status, this should interest fans of any of the three musicians, fans of jazz and Spanish guitar, and anyone interested in what can be achieved on the acoustic instrument. Saturday Night In San Francisco is released in July, and will be available on CD, as digital download and on vinyl.

Introduction; Splendido Sundance; One Word; Trilogy Suite; Monasterio De Sal; El Pañuelo; Meeting Of The Spirits; Orpheo Negro (50.39)
Al Di Meola (g); John McLaughlin (g); Paco De Lucia (g). San Francisco, 6 December 1980.
EAR Music