Today we’re listening to Gábor Szabó, a Hungarian guitarist. We first recommended him in early 2020. Szabó fled Hungary after the 1956 revolution and landed in California. In his own jazz, he reflected the influences of 1960s rock/pop and traditional Hungarian music. We first came to appreciate Szabó for his album 1969 from the same year, which has instrumental covers of contemporary pop songs including several by the Beatles. But this past May, the Austrian label Ebalunga!!! found and published a deft, freewheeling 1976 performance of Szabó and his band in Cleveland, which includes a sprawling interpretation of “Autumn Leaves.” We’re playing that record first.
Live in Cleveland 1976 - Gábor Szabó (50m, no vocals)
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1969 by Gábor Szabó (40m, no vocals)
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Have a really nice Thursday.
I think more context is important to appreciate Gabor Szabo. He came on the jazz scene in the early 1960s by joining the Chico Hamilton Quintet. At the time, that was a highly visible gig. His predecessor was Jim Hall, a legend in his own time in jazz circles. Next, as the Bay Area jazz scene heated up in the mid 60s, Szabo landed a contract with Impulse Records -- the legendary label of John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Gil Evans, and more. His 1966 album included “Gypsy Queen,” which was famously covered by super fan Carlos Santana in 1970, which in Santana’s inventive version was paired with Fleetwood Mac’s “Black Magic Woman.” In the early 70s, Szabo’s version of “Breezin” influenced George Benson to record his own a few years later. Benson’s version became a smash crossover hit.
In sum, Gabor Szabo was a major influence on a generation of jazz, rock, and soul guitarists.
Lifting me high this morning!