“Technique is not enough, even though it's the best of this generation… what he doesn't have yet - he's not a composer”: Al Di Meola is cool about the Matteo Mancuso phenomenon

Al Di Meola
(Image credit: Getty Images/Daniel Knighton)

Like everyone else, jazz fusion legend Al Di Meola has been blown away by the 27-year-old guitarist’s technique. But in an interview on Become A Guitarist Today podcast with Adam Roach, he has said that Mancuso needs to develop his songwriting and composition techniques further before he can be considered a great. 

"Of all the new guys, he's the one everybody's talking about, [and] rightfully so. When I first heard him, I said, 'Okay, he's light years ahead in many ways. He's got an extraordinary technique. But [what] he doesn't have yet - he's not a composer. Everything he's playing in these videos, wow. But it's against any music. How is that gonna fit in the music?"

“When people were thinking of me, or any guys in the fusion era of the '70s, we were always thinking of the record. When people think of me, they think of Elegant Gypsy, Casino... They think of records or songs, Mediterranean Sundance. And I don't associate him with any record yet."

Mancuso has just one record to his name so far – The Journey, released in 2023 - but in an interview with Andertons that went online last week, he explained that he wanted his next record to concentrate “more on the composition side of things” and hinted that he wanted to collaborate with a vocalist.

It’s a direction that Di Meola would surely encourage. "That's a big thing that we're forgetting, that technique is not enough, even though it's the best of this generation, what he's doing,” he explained to Roach. “And there's a lot of great ones. But he needs to develop, he needs to start, even, to gravitate towards writing. Because otherwise, you could only take so much technique, you know, you got to have the music."

It’s not the first time that Di Meola has emphasised the importance of composition over technique. In an interview with Guitar World in 2022 he remarked that “I see a lot of young players online with such super-phenomenal technique and in many cases, super-phenomenal lines, which are just incredible and very impressive, but very rarely ever do I see it in the framework of a composition, especially an original composition.”

Whilst Mancuso himself would doubtless concur that Di Meola has a point, plenty of guitar heavyweights continue to be deeply impressed by the young man’s chops. His flamenco-style finger technique has drawn praise from the likes of Steve Vai and Joe Bonamassa, who has said of him, “I have not seen anyone reinvent like this since Stanley Johnson.” Bonamassa also duetted with him on stage when he played the Berlin Uber Arena last month.

Will Simpson
News and features writer

Will Simpson is a freelance music expert whose work has appeared in Classic Rock, Classic Pop, Guitarist and Total Guitar magazine. He is the author of 'Freedom Through Football: Inside Britain's Most Intrepid Sports Club' and his second book 'An American Cricket Odyssey' is due out in 2025