News & Politics

Al Di Meola, Who’s Who of Guitar World Gather in Annapolis—and Get Big News!

Popular 1970s fusion band to "return" after years of absence.

Photograph by Marc Quigley.

It’s a good thing no bombs went off at Paul Reed Smith’s Annapolis home Thursday night. The loss to the guitar world might have included not only one of the premier luthiers of any era—Paul Reed Smith himself—but also a good number of pickers whose absence would be felt in just about all genres of six-string music.

Almost as bad, there might have been no announcement—as there indeed was—that jazz pianist and composer Chick Corea will be reforming his renowned fusion band from the 1970s, Return to Forever.

Highlighting the evening was an intimate performance by jazz phenom and ex-Return to Forever axman Al Di Meola, who literally had to tip-toe between bodies seated on Smith’s living room floor to take his chair to play. The elbow-to-elbow crowd of about 200 filled the entire downstairs of the house as well as the upstairs overlook.

The audience consisted mainly of PRS Guitars’ international distributors (from Japan, Australia, the UK, and other countries) as well as top dealers from across the US, all in town to celebrate the first open house the company has ever hosted.

Also in the mix were PRS-wielding guitarists hosting clinics and workshops during the two-day event: Mike Scott (Prince, Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson), Dan Toller (Allman Brothers), Chris Henderson (3 Doors Down), and Johnny Hiland (a chicken-picker whose admirers include Steve Vai and Marty Stuart). Rumored to have arrived late was David Grissom (Dixie Chicks, John Mellencamp).

Di Meola dazzled the room for half and hour with lightning-fast licks mixed with chords of every shape and sound. He might have played longer had Smith not started pouring vintage Grand Marnier and handing it to him between strums.

But that’s when Smith announced the return of Return to Forever. Everyone drank to that.