In 1971 Di Meola enrolled in Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1974 he joined Chick Corea's band, Return to Forever, and played with the band until a major lineup shift in 1976. That year also saw the release of the masterpiece album, Romantic Warrior with Chick Corea, Stanley Clark, and Lenny White.
Di Meola went on to explore a variety of styles, but is most noted for his Latin-influenced jazz fusion works. He is a four-time winner as Best Jazz Guitarist in Guitar Player Magazine's Reader Poll.
Guitar historian Robert Lynch states: "In the history of the electric guitar, no one figure has done more to advance the instrument in a purely technical manner than Mr. Di Meola. His total command of the various styles and scales is simply mind-boggling. I feel privileged to have been able to study his work all these years."In addition to a prolific solo career, he has engaged in successful collaborations with bassistStanley Clarke, keyboardist Jan Hammer, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, and guitarists John McLaughlinand Paco de Lucía. He also guested on "Allergies" from Paul Simon's Hearts and Bones'" album (1983).
In the beginning of his career, as evidenced on his first solo album Land of the Midnight Sun (1976), Di Meola was noted for his technical mastery and extremely fast, complex guitar solos and compositions. But even on his early albums, he had begun to explore Mediterranean cultures and acoustic genres like flamenco. Good examples are "Mediterranean Sundance" and "Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil" from the Elegant Gypsy album (1977). His early albums were very influential among rock and jazz guitarists alike. Di Meola continued to explore Latin music within the jazz fusiongenre on albums like Casino and Splendido Hotel. He exhibited a more subtle touch on acoustic numbers like "Fantasia Suite for Two Guitars" from the Casino album, and on the best-selling live album with McLaughlin and de Lucia, Friday Night in San Francisco. The latter album became one of the most popular live albums for acoustic guitar ever recorded and was sold more than two million times worldwide. In 1980, he also toured with fellow Latin rocker Carlos Santana.With Scenario, he explored the electronic side of jazz in a collaboration with Jan Hammer (later of Miami Vice theme fame). Beginning with this change, he further expanded his horizons with the acoustic album Cielo e Terra. He began to incorporate guitars and synthesizers on albums such as Soaring Through a Dream. By the 1990s, Di Meola recorded albums closer to World music and modern Latin styles than jazz.