Two months into a joint tour, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco de Lucia took the stage at San Francisco's Warfield Theatre on Friday, December 5, 1980. The three acoustic guitarists, intuitively connected to one another, employed no rhythm section or other instrumentalists. Their tight interplay was nothing short of magical; one could hear a pin drop in the 2,300-seat venue. Di Meola remembered the evening as "a night of pure balls to the wall. But highly inventive balls to the wall." The concert was preserved by Columbia Records as Friday Night in San Francisco. Released in 1981 - and featuring one studio track recorded in May of that year - Friday Night went on to sell over two million copies worldwide. It hit the top half of the Billboard 200 and the top ten of the trade paper's Jazz chart, and became a high watermark of all three men's discographies. But DI Meola, McLaughlin, and de Lucia also performed at the Warfield on Saturday evening, December 6. In 1997, McLaughlin was quoted as saying, "Saturday night was totally different. It was a very different energy on stage. Nice audience again, but something mysterious happens some nights and that's really what you hope for...that magic thing...sparkle, whatever you wanna call it. It's just got a mysterious quality to it that lends great charm to everything. And that's what happened on Friday night." But what did really go down on Saturday night? Impex Records is providing the answer.
Saturday Night in San Francisco is the belated sequel to the album which jazz historian Walter Kolovsky once wrote "may be the most influential of all acoustic guitar albums." Like the very different Friday night set, it features all three players at the top of their form, a true international fusion: Di Meola from New Jersey, McLaughlin from the U.K., and de Lucia from Spain. Solos from each musician are included as well as their joint performances. The repertoire differs from that of Friday evening though the musicianship is equally, thrillingly comparable.
Al Di Meola has personally revisited and supervised this release, curating it from the original 16-track multitrack tapes for release on CD, 180-gram vinyl LP, and hybrid SACD (playable on all CD players). The album has been newly mixed by Roy Hendrickson and mastered by Bernie Grundman for remarkably vivid sound that places the listener in the Warfield auditorium on that Saturday night almost 42 years ago.
As per Impex's usual high standards, Saturday Night in San Francisco will receive a deluxe presentation. Charles L. Granata (Sing and Dance with Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli: Live in New York 1979) has penned a new essay drawing on a fresh interview with Al Di Meola and original recording engineer Tim Pinch. Di Meola told Granata, "It's exciting because the audience was right there with us, savoring every single note of music. And we were ripping. It was crazy good!"
The "crazy good" Trio reunited for the studio albums Passion, Grace, and Fire (1983) and The Guitar Trio (1996) but Friday Night remained in a class of its own. Now, Saturday Night in San Francisco promises to be a most worthy companion. The CD and stereo hybrid SACD have been pressed at Sonopress in Germany, and the SACD features one bonus track, "Soniquete." The 180-gram, 33-1/3 RPM vinyl LP has been pressed at RTI; Bernie Grundman has cut the lacquers and mastered.
Look for Saturday Night in San Francisco on July 15 from Impex Records. (Orders placed directly with the label are shipping now.) You'll find the track listing and pre-order links below.
Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco de Lucia, Saturday Night in San Francisco (Impex, 2022)
- Bill Graham Introduction
- Splendido Sundance
- One Word
- Trilogy Suite
- Monasterio de Sal
- El Pañuelo
- Meeting of the Spirits
- Soniquete (Bonus Track on Hybrid SACD only)