Album Notes - Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco de Lucía - Saturday Night in San Francisco

Album Notes - Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco de Lucía - Saturday Night in San Francisco

July 13, 2022

41 years later, we get the next night. Even one of the three musicians didn't know it existed.

Last week, unable to sleep, I found myself at 2 am scrolling through one of the websites I visit on a daily basis to see what new releases may be awaiting my ears. When I came across an album called Saturday Night in San Francisco, my first thought was, "Is this a joke?" The artists were the same. The font on the cover artwork matched. "Surely, this is a bootleg," I thought. Regardless, I immediately downloaded and then started sleuthing. I soon discovered this was indeed a legit upcoming release from Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco de Lucía, recorded on December 6, 1980, the day after their previous evening's performance was immortalized on the brilliant Friday Night in San Francisco, an LP I've long been waiting for an excuse to feature here. 

Friday resides comfortably near the top of my favorite albums list and represents some of the absolute finest acoustic guitar playing ever put on record, a 40-minute masterclass in virtuosity from three of the best to ever do it: Al Di Meola, the American jazz fusionist who burst on the scene after joining Chick Corea's Return to Forever; John McLaughlin, leader of the pioneering Mahavishnu Orchestra and featured axeman on numerous albums from Miles Davis, who thought of him so highly he even named a song on Bitches Brew after the Englishman; and Paco de Lucía, the Spanish flamenco legend with few peers in that arena. Their thirty fingers dance around one another in a furious display of technical ability and musical dexterity, communicating on a level undreamt of by most mortals.  

Portions of their Friday, December 5, 1980 performance at the Warfield Theater were released the following year. Little did anyone know, including McLaughlin, that their next show was also recorded and has been sitting in Di Meola's possession ever since. Now, Saturday Night in San Francisco is available for the world to hear, and every bit as good as what transpired the previous evening. You don't know what you got till it's gone? We didn't know what we were missing until it arrived.