Sometimes a song just moves you. Why is that? Everyone has radically different tastes in music and what good for you might be garbage to the next person – BUT there are undeniably those cases where whether you personally like a song or not, you simply have to admit when the musicians have the chops or not. Al Di Meola is a perfect example of that.
I’ve been a fan of Al Di Meola for over 20 years. His music ranges from intense to melodic to structured to edgy to sweeping and a million other terms. He is one of those “voices’ on guitar that it take only two notes (maybe even a single note) to know who’s on the guitar. Most of his music has been unheard by the masses (the masses tend to miss all the good stuff) but for those who know his body of work you’ve seen an evolution across several decades of a guy who just is at the top of his game. Similar to how you might keep a great bottle of wine or olive oil in your kitchen for just the right meals, Al Di Meola is the musician you keep nearby for just when you need a dose of intelligent music.
For this 4th submission on Experience Music as a Musician I selected a song I featured two years ago on Anthidote. It is Al Di Meola and Leonid Agutin with a phenomenal “pop” piece called “Cosmopolitan Life”. I say “pop” because I’d like to show you what a “popular” song can sound like if you bring into it the skills of these musicians along with a solid brasilian beat, some jetset lyrics, and an instantly memorable hook – which I all but guarantee you will be whistling all day after you hear this tune. More pop music should be this sharp.
Starting right out of the gate this tune lays down the groove with the piano putting in a solid salsa beat and a hard 4/4 kick drum tempo 220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 and so on. This is easy as pie to count and is very natural to anyone on a dance floor. Next you hear that classic double kick feel on the drums which bleeds Brasil. The song (sung by a Russian) goes from Colombia to Brasil in the first 10 seconds. Already cool. On top of these two things listen carefully to the acoustic guitar players in the background strumming out the classic gypsy stroke which is 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3 on top of the 4/4. We’re not 20 seconds into the song yet and already all kinds of polyrythms are happening.
Next comes the the hard lead on guitar (and a beautiful PRS guitar at that) played almost staccato style.
From here we launch into the first verse punctuated by the lead guitar and at 1:01 we hit the hook – “oh ma yay o ma yo oh ma ya” with the nice female vocals in the back that evoke that classic brasilian chorus you hear so often on the brasilian tracks across so many Brasilian artists.
This is great stuff and at 2:19 we hit what I think is one of the best bridges I think I’ve ever heard. A bridge is a piece of music that connects one part of a song to another – you hit the bridge, you cross the bridge, and you come out the other side to either where you were or to a new part of a the song.
Listen carefully at 2:29 to what the bass line does. It hits just the right note. This is a case which the choice of note makes all the difference in the world – there could have probably been 3 or 4 notes that could have gone there and worked – but that note evokes just the right atmosphere for where the song is going. Think of it like a receipe and how you layer flavors together to get to the final dish – it’s the same with music – you layer it, you add a spice here or there, and you let it cook and you savor it. You savor food with you tongue and you savor music with your ears. It’s sensory.
This happens again at 2:42 only this time with the bass note AND the vocals. You may think this is ludicrous but go back and play 2:15 to 2:50 again you will hear what I am talking about.
The song comes out of the bridge back into the party groove and into the lead solo (which is “tasty” as some might say) and continues straight to the end with a nice close 1-2-3 (rest) 1-2-3 – Valeo!
Plus the room full of knock-out international chicks doesn’t hurt either :-)
If Al Di Meola comes to your town, do something that will leave you with a musical experience – go see him – you won’t forget it.
If you would like to check out parts 1, 2, & 3 on this theme click below.