Al Di Meola was born on July 22, 1954 in New Jersey. He studied at Berklee but didn't finish his studies because in 1974 he got offered a job in Chick Corea's band Back to Forever. After 2 years, in which the band got their greatest commercial success (Romantic Warrior), Al Di Meola launched his solo career.
Al Di Meola is known for his technical mastery and extreme fast guitar solos. His speed is amazing, knowing that he picks every note and almost never uses hammer-ons or pull-offs. Having played jazz fusion most of the time, Al Di Meola began exploring other styles of music and acoustic Latin music (like flamenco) in particular. Songs like 'Mediterranean Sundance' and 'Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil' (listen to samples here) are good examples of this Mediterranean influence.
Al Di Meola has been very influential to both jazz and rock guitarists. He won Guitar Player Magazine's reader poll 4 times in the category 'Best Jazz Guitarist'.
Some of the names he regularly collaborated with: bassist Stanley Clarke, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, piano player Chick Corea, synthesizer man Jan Hammer, guitarist Stanley Jordan and Paul Simon. Together with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia he made a very successful flamenco influenced album called Friday Night in San Francisco.
1) This lick is played in the F# Phrygian scale. The Phrygian scale has a Spanish flavor to it (Al Di Meola's flamenco influence). The lick comes out of 'Race With the Devil on the Spanish Highway' from the album Elegant Gypsy. Try to play the lick with the same fluency as he does, without using slurs (hammers or pulls).
Al Di Meola is the author of a great guitar book: AL Di Meola - A Guide to Chords, Scales & Arpeggios. He also released a instructional video, that unfortunately has not been released on DVD so far.